I have always enjoy seasonal cooking. Not only is the environmentally smart thing to do, but making the passage of the year with the seasonal favorites has always felt deeply special to me. In a year when the days began running together into a blur of weeks and months, it has felt (and continues to feel) especially important. In early fall, when the garden is beginning to peter out and the butternut squash have cured, I make the first batch of butternut squash soup. The poplar trees hint at the fall to come, and this soup (loaded with ginger if I don’t have to share with anyone) promises the golden light, cool evenings, and crunching of leafs. This year’s batch was silky and delicious. It was finished cultured vegan butter, salt, and cracked pepper. When I went back for seconds, to my family’s disgust, I added chopped cilantro and sriracha!
Saute onion and garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil until translucent, add everything else and continue to saute until fragrant. Then add enough water to cover the mix. Boil until soft. Remove the rosemary, blend with immersion blender. Continue to cook down until desired consistency. It really is that simple.
I will not lie and tell you I don’t occasionally enjoy a cinnamon roll for breakfast now and then, but a savory breakfast is one of the greater joys in life. Over the spring and summer, I craved flavor and protein and never thought I could get enough kale on my plate. The summer garden was robust this last season and there never a shortage for my favorite leafy green.
The trick for me is to generally use one pan. While I keep each ingredients in it’s own area of the plan, the fats and flavors boost on another without creating taking away the unique flavors. Yesterday I made two vegan sausage patties (Beyond Meat), sliced baby bellos, and a cup of tiny tomatoes cooked in olive oil and frozen in late summer. The tomatoes were jammy and amazing, and the mushrooms came to life with the spices and fat of the sausages. Piled on some grits – heaven on a plate. Savory breakfasts are warm and fresh, even though you can easily use dinner leftovers from the night before!
Favorite savory combos (lately):
Spicy sausage, kale, grits
Sweet sausage, tomato with pesto, grits
Fresh berries, toast with sriracha mayo and fat slice of tomato with salt and pepper
Spiced black lentils, jammy tomatoes, and half a slice of crusty toast with olive oil
Fresh blueberries, slices of tomato with pesto and lemony garlic kale
Sliced cucumber with dill/vegan mayo, toast with garlic hummus
Spicy sausage, roasted potatoes (cooked the night before and cooked with the sausage), and sauteed kale
A few weeks before the pandemic began to sweep across the county, I caught the flu at office. It quickly spread through the house, putting my husband flat on his back for nearly a week and my daughter a fever so high I wanted to take take her to the emergency room (the doctor said this was necessary). The kitchen was littered with coconut water, bottles of every version of children’s cold and flu medicine I could find, and boxes of crackers. When the plague finally left the house weeks later, I was eager to make something comforting and likely be eaten by little bellies that still didn’t have a great appetite.
I’ve turned to this recipe four times this fall. It’s basically a hug in a bowl.
For the Soup: In a medium stock pot, make a classic base with sauteed onion, celery, garlic and a bay leaf and generous amount of thyme and a little ground sage. I like to include the celery leafs for good measure. Slices carrots, green peas, and russet potatoes are my favorites. Green beans or kale occasionally make an appearance. I use about half veggie stock and half water and cook until the potatoes are tender (15-20 minutes). I make a little flour/water roux to thicken the broth before adding the dumplings.
For the Dumplings: The dumplings are the star of this meal. In a small mixing bowl combine (I prefer to use my hands, but you can use two knives to cut in) to get a sandy texture, then add the milk. I add a little garlic powder and sage to mine, but that’s your call.
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 Tablespoons Butter
3/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
1 Cup of Non-Dairy Milk (I prefer unsweetened soy
Bring up the heat on the soup to a decent boil. Pinch or scoop a about a tablespoon of dough and drop it into the soup. Don’t over do it, just plop them in and put the lid on the pot. Cook for 10 minutes, keeping the lid on the entire time (okay, take a peek at 8 minutes and get excited).
Serve immediately – thought leftovers are pretty great for lunch the next day. Pro tip – if you make a lot of soup and eat all the dumplings (….guilty as charged) you make another batch of dough, bring the soup up to a boil and have another round!
When I started this little website I had big dreams of spending a few weekends a year sharing my love of cooking with others. I carefully chose the word gather. It felt warm — and it felt like fun. I desperately wanted to do something fun. I didn’t realize within weeks gathering would become one of the most dangerous things anyone could do.
I’ve been fortunate this year to stay safe. There have been a lot of Zoom meetings, less commuting and what feels like constant online grocery shopping. I miss gathering, but I am hopeful better days are ahead. Until then you can generally find me on Instagram and here on the blog.
I have no guests coming over this weekend and I have no social engagements to attend. The holiday hubbub has subsided and I am grateful for it. It’s time to be home and get my hygge on! Thanksgiving to Christmas is a running start into what I think of as the cozy season and it’s one of my favorite things in life. My sock are fuzzy, the kids are snugly and the kitchen is warm – but not as warm as it by the woodstove.
It’s Thursday, which is weekend menu day. If there is anything particular I want to make, today is the day to reference recipes, make sure the staples are well-stocked, and make my shopping list. Currently, I have several ingredients hangout in the kitchen that need to be put into play: a butternut squash, fresh sage and some mushrooms. I think there is some spinach and chard ready in the garden.
I’m not interested in the butternut square and the mushrooms competing for flavor. I want to use the squash and sage to stuff shells with cashew cream or tofu, but that’s a lot of pasta for the weekend menu, so instead I’m going to make my favorite butternut squash soup. It’s going to be ready here, so this will be a nice warm up.
The sage and mushrooms are going to make friends with creamy risotto, which reminds me to add white wine to the grocery list. I may add some ribbons of greens, but more than likely I’ll cook them just enough to be tender with a little olive oil and salt and eat them with both the soup and the risotto.
Am I going to bake too? Yes, because the soup will be lonely without a wedge of..foccacia? french bread? I haven’t decided yet! I’ll follow up with how-I-made-it details this weekend.
The week of Christmas promised one potluck, two big family parties, and at least six hour in the car. I’m always ready to show others how “not different” plant based cooking can be, so I tend to not hold back when given the opportunity to show off a little bit. To take to the pot luck and parties I made a small mountain of of pinwheels. Some were made with puff pastry others with a flat bread dough — both purchased shamelessly from the grocery store. I stopped by Trader Joe’s (the Friday before Christmas…. not the best idea I’ve ever had) and threw a variety of sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, capers and… other stuff in the basket. To this combination I added pesto made earlier this year when the garden was over flowing. I also made party dip comprised of some dairy free cream cheese and sour cream, spinach, garlic, and roasted red peppers. To this I added two loaves of rustic bread, one a cherry walnut and the other sage and rosemary. Both included our neighbor’s amazing sourwood honey.
Pinwheels were shared at the potluck first, then everything else was packed alongside Christmas presents in the back of the Prius and we set out to see my family. After begging my sister to pick up ALL THE PRODUCE which I forgot to buy for the party, I set out to build a charcuterie board. Slices of gorgeous bread, piles of pinwheels, bowls of tiny little pickles and olives, slices of roasted red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes, my party dip, water crackers, bell peppers, cucumber, sugar snaps, blackberries, and cashews packed the platter to the edge of silliness, but it was beautiful. It didn’t surprise me at all to see my handiwork appear on everyone’s plate as the evening went on.
This bread made me (and many other people) very happy.
Before we left, I made peanut butter cookies. They are so easy and don’t mind sitting in the cabinet for two days before being by Santa, who from what I can tell must have approved. The plate had only crumbs the next morning!
Friends, consider this the post-early Thanksgiving holiday wrap up. I haven’t stopped cooking for months and it’s been a blur of of whisks and a haze of flour for weeks on end. As I come out come down from the sugary buzz of all the delicious treats and warm happy feeling a slice of homemade bread can give a person, I have decided to hit the highlights for you.We traveled to Folly Beach, SC for Thanksgiving proper, where I went all in on another round of Thanksgiving cooking. With no other plant-based families sharing in the cooking this year, I felt responsible for providing a vegan spread that only can be afforded by a labor of love and a huge grocery haul. I made my traditional holiday loaf, roasted sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes with gravy, a killer cranberry sauce full of orange zest and ginger, a laughably large puff pastry filled with a wholly improvised spinach filling, massaged kale salad with walnut and pomegranate, garlic and butter* green beans, and… a three layer cranberry cake for the ages. There aren’t enough hours in the day to try to write how I made any of this but generally I am asked the following:
What you’re favorite vegan butter? I often use organic Earth Balance, but I have some issues with the palm oil and have started buying Miyoko’s. It has a far more subtle buttery taste, and I’m a fan.
What do you put in your mashed potatoes? Some vegan butter, a shot or two of unsweetened organic soy milk and some veggie broth in whatever combination to taste. Salt and pepper.
What is massaged kale? Some apple cider vinegar and olive oil poured over and smooshed around with the kale will make it tender without heating it. Several hours in the fridge covered in the fridge will do the trick.
I didn’t know puff pastry is vegan? Not all of it is. Read carefully.
Where did you get the cranberry cake recipe? Like most things I enjoy, it came from the New York Times. Original recipe is not vegan.
Some people know how to cook, others know how to follow a recipe. These are both important but very different skills one may possess. Curious family, friends and colleagues have often said they’d eat “better” or with “less meat” if they knew how to cook. This is one of the reasons I wanted to start this blog — sharing ideas, conversation, and information along recipes or even ideas about meals to develop a new set of skills and confidence. I want to write my of my recipes with slightly less precious, so you, dear reader, can make a judgement call and hone your skills.
We returned home late on Sunday afternoon after a few days away.
With no plan for dinner in place, I was able to turn to my small pantry and fridge to put together something basic for the kids, and use the same ingredients (mostly) to make something a little more satisfying for me and my husband. Being able to make something delicious with limited and basic ingredients isn’t always easy, but it does show the practical value of keeping having a well-stocked pantry.
Knowing how to balance the salts and fats, considering texture of different ingredients, and being cognizant of the general nutritional value provided are three basic skills you need if you want to know how to cook. Of these, balancing flavor is the one that seems to be the greatest challenge. Some people seem to be born with the skill, while others work to develop it. I didn’t realize this was a skill I possessed until I was trying to explain how to make something to my husband. When it works the flavors come together in a new way, without overpowering the other.
Before getting started review what’s in the kitchen, and make a note of priorities for the meal. I needed to use a head of broccoli and a package of baby portobello mushrooms before they spoiled. I also needed to skip anything with wheat, for the sake of variety and nutritional value because the kids have been eating a lot of wheat lately.
I put the produce on the counter, and surveyed my pasta options, selecting one made of chickpeas. The mushrooms informed the flavor I was going for – rich and savory. The result was an excellent, healthy dinner that I was proud to serve and happy to eat.
I’ve been trying to write “real” recipes down, but it’s not how I cook, and I’m not interested in teaching you how to do something than to follow a recipe.
I sliced the package of mushrooms (about ¼ of an inch thick, stems removed) and sauteed with one shot of balsamic vinegar and three soy of soy sauce, and a sprinkle of garlic powder and scoop of Earth Balance (tablespoon?).
I cooked them on medium heat, and turned it up at the end fora little extra browning. Maybe eight minutes? Once a glossy, rich brown I set them aside.
Steamed broccoli on the stove with exactly nothing special, only careful not to overcook the chopped florets.
Cooked one box of chickpea pasta per directions on the box.
Poured the cooked pasta into a large mixing bowl, add the well-drained broccoli, and mushrooms. Mix carefully so not to smash the pasta or the broccoli. Add pesto (mine is frozen from the summer garden, approximately two heaping tablespoons. I just added more until it was well covered). Salt and pepper to taste. A little garlic and onion powder to punch up the flavor. Earth balance for richness. Generous sprinkle of nutritional yeast (probably two tablespoons) and a splash or two of soy milk.
To be honest I probably added some more Earth Balance at some point, knowing the key to this would be bringing up the fats factor to work with the salty one-two punch of the balsamic/soy sauce mushrooms.
Meanwhile, my once adventures eaters ate pesto pasta, steamed broccoli, and black lentils on the side with strawberries and peanut butter topped graham crackers for dessert.
The trees are turning yellow, but I know it is stress from this late summer heat wave and not from a shift in seasons. The gardens are still kicking tomatoes and a long day met with happily with a fresh and flavorful dinner, unless you are a cat, in which case you will find this to be a disappointing menu. Sorry Kaufman and Pip…
On the menu are crispy Romaine lettuce making up 1/3 of the plate, tomato basil salad, quinoa, and sweet honey and dill chickpeas topped with pickled red onions and cilantro. I roughly tear the lettuce and skip any dressing – there are enough flavors for one plate and I add some lettuce to every flavorful bite. Prep your quinoa following instructions on the package. You can assemble as food bowl, with the lettuce and quinoa as your base, or go for a colorful display on your favorite plate. Apparently I was hungry when I made this!
Tomato Basil Salad
1 cups of cherry tomatoes were sliced into quarters
1 handful of fresh basil leaves coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 shakes of salt and cracked pepper
Fried and Dressed Chickpeas
1 15 oz can of chickpeas
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2-3 teaspoons honey
¼ garlic powder
2 teaspoons dill
Lightly fry to the chickpeas on medium heat for 10-12 minutes. You will see a “shell” like texture change. If you cook them for much longer they be a little chewy or hard.
Whisk together all dressing ingredients and adjust lemon juice and honey to taste. Pour the freshly fried chickpeas and stir until covered.
Serve with pickled red onion and fresh cilantro. I make the pickled red onion a few hours ahead of time with a basic refrigerator pickle recipe.