Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cauliflower Pumpkin Pasta 2/25

Yumm-o.  Rachael Ray doesn't focus on vegetarian recipes, but some really great ones can be found in her cookbooks, including this one!

This pasta has an unusual combination of flavors, and it works very well.  The fresh sage really stands out.  If you wanted to serve this as a side dish I think the flavors would blend beautifully with rosemary roasted chicken.  You could also add sausage for a heartier meal.

Pumpkin is packed with carotenoids (as are carrots - that's why they are orange), lutein and zeaxanthin which all attack free radicals (nasty molecules that can attack cell membranes and leave the cells vulnerable to damage).  Lutein and zeaxanthin scavenge free radicals in the lens of the eye, which may help prevent the formation of cataracts and reduce the risk of macular degeneration, a serious eye problem than usually results in blindness.  You can learn more about the benefits of pumpkins here.

In short, pumpkins are very, very good for you.
Cauliflower Pumpkin Pasta
Serves 4 in under 30 minutes.
$1.00 per serving: Vegetarian or Gluten Free (if served over polenta)

  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, chopped

  • 1 large head cauliflower

  • 1 cup vegetable stock

  • Salt, to taste

  • 1/2 pound cavatappi (hollow corkscrew pasta) or other shaped pasta (replace with cooked polenta for gluten free)

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree* (found on baking aisle, careful NOT to get pie filling)

  • 1/4 cream or half-and-half

  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (grate your own and avoid a shake jar if possible)

  • A dash of ground nutmeg

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 3 tablespoons fresh sage leaves (dry will NOT work at all, get the fresh)
Preheat a large skillet (one with a tight fitting lid) over medium heat.  Add the oil and garlic and cook for 1 munite.  Add the cauliflower and turn to coat in oil.  Add the vegetable stock and bring up to a boil.  Place the lid on the pan and simmer the cauliflower for 15 minutes, or until very tender.

Place a pot of water on to boil for the pasta, when boiling add some salt to the water for seasoning and add pasta.  Or, start the polenta, for gluten free.
When the pasta is cooked and the cauliflower florets are very tender, remove the lid from the cauliflower and stir in the pumpkin puree and cream.  Heat through, then drain off the pasta and add it to the cauliflower and pumpkin.  Add the cheese, nutmeg, pepper, and sage.  Toss, then season with salt to taste.  Serve with extra cheese to pass at the table with a salad on the side.
Gluten-free last step: complete all the same steps above, except do not toss together.  Serve the sauce over the finished polenta.  You might want to add a little sage and parmesan cheese to the polenta while it is cooking so the flavors blend.
Adapted from 30-Minute Get Real Meals, by Rachael Ray (2005).
NOTE: I had my leftovers topped with ricotta cheese and that was AWESOME.

*We bought a 25+ pound pumpkin back in November and tokk a few hours one Saturday to process it into puree and roasted pumpkin squares.  This one pumpkin yielded over 30 cups of pumpkin!  To make homemade puree, peel the pumpkin and remove seeds.  Cut into 1 inch cubes.  Put on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and toss.  Roast in a 350 degree oven for about 20 mnnutes, check regularly until it is cooked through.  Let it cool.  Freeze as is (for 1 inch cubes) or puree in a cuisinart until a desired texture is achieved.  As it is, unseasoned, this is the perfect baby food!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Adas be Sabanekh, Lentils with Spinach and Lemon 2/24

This is a refreshing change of pace from standard winter fare - the lemon finish makes this so tasty I guarantee you will eat at least two bowls. It might even be possible that you can even get you children to eat spinach this way!  Maybe...

This is filling by itself, but you can serve it over rice for a more substantial meal. This recipe is of Lebanese origin.

Adas be Sabanekh (Lentils with Spinach and Lemon)
Serves 6.

$0.83 per serving: Vegan, Vegetarian, and Gluten-free
Organic, add $0.25 per serving
  • 1/2 pound lentils
  • 1 cup sliced onion
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled & finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh corriander (cilantro)
  • 10 ounces frozen spinach leaves*, completely thawed, drained, and roughly chopped
  • 2 medium waxy potatoes, peeled & sliced
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste
*I prefer fresh spinach but I don't buy pre-washed bagged spinach because of the nasty chemicals they use to wash it. To easily and effectively wash your own fill a sink or tub with cold water, float the spinach in the water & mix up slightly, come back in 10 minutes and the sand/grit should have all fallen to the bottom!
  1. Wash and pick over the lentil. Place in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Cook, covered, anbout 20 minutes. Add water if needed so the lentils stay covered!
  2. Meanwhile, brown the onion in a large casserole. Stir in the garlic and corriander. Add the spinach and saute 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the potatoes, lentils, and enough lentil cooking liquid to cover (for more broth, add more tap water). Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and cook at a simmer until potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. For a thicker, more stew-like consistancy, you can simmer up to one hour.
  4. Immediately before serving, stir in the lemon juice. Taste and, if needed, add more salt and ground black pepper.
Adapted from Mediterranean Cooking, by Paula Wolfert (1994).

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Vegan Chili and Cornbread 2/23

You don't need a slow cooker for this wonderful and easy chili. You just need to remember to start the beans early. This is not a very hot chili, rather it is rich and tomoato-flavored. The bulgar gives a texture very similar to ground beef.

Chili is vegan and vegetarian. Follow Alternate Step #2 to make it gluten-free.

Estimated Chili cost is $1.23 per serving with purely organic ingredients, or $1.00 per serving non-organic.

Cornbread recipe below is vegetarian, estimated cost is $0.35/slice (yields 9 slices).

I found a promising vegan cornbread recipe here and a gluten-free variation here, but I have not tried these (yet).

Vegan Chili (Cornbread follows below)
Serves 6.

  • 2 1/2 cups dry kidney beans, soaked at least 8 hours
  • 1 cup tomato juice
  • 1 cup uncooked bulgar wheat
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 6 to 8 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 2 teaspoons each of cumin, basil, and chili powder (more, to taste)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt (more, to taste)
  • black pepper and cayanne, to taste
  • 1 medium bell pepper, chopped*
  • 1 can tomatoes (about 15 ounces)
  • 3 tablespoons tomoato paste (1/2 a small can**)
Optional toppings
  • Finely minced presh parsley or cilantro
  • Grated cheese (cheddar is best)
  1. Place the soaked beans in a large heavy pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Partially cover, turn heat down to a simmer, and cook until tender (about 1 1/4 hours). Add water as needed to beans stay covered. When done, drain off excess water and set beans aside. ALTERNATE: If you have one, and are not afraid to use it, cook beans in a pressure cooker instead for exactly 12 minutes (start timing only when fully pressurized).
  2. Heat the tomato juice to boiling. Add it to the bulgar in a small bowl, cover, and let stand for 15 minutes. Add this to the cooked beans.
    ALTERNATE: For gluten-free version, replace barley with 2/3 cup quinoa (rinse it first). Add 1 cup water with the tomato juice. Simmer for 15 minutes (will need to cook longer than barley).
  3. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add onion, half the garlic, carrot, celery, and seasonings. Saute until all the vegetables are tender.
  4. Add the sauteed vegetables, tomatoes (with their juice), and tomato paste to the beans. Simmer over lowest possible heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes or longer. After about 15 minutes, add remaining garlic. Taste to adjust seasonings, and serve hot. Don't forget to add your toppings!
Adapted (very slightly) from Moosewood Cookbook, by Mollie Katzen (1992 Revised Edition).


*Since bell peppers are out of season I used jarred Roasted Red Peppers, from Trader Joe's.

**NEVER ever store unused tomato paste in it's metal can after opening. Instead, spoon 1 tablespoon at a time onto a small square of plastic wrap, wrap up, take all the little tomato paste pockets and scoop them into one freezer storage bag then freeze until you need later.

CornbreadYields 9 slices.

I like my cornbread quite moist and just a little sweet. I have tried many versions, this is my favorite.
  • Butter for greasing the pan
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch square pan (or a 9- or 10-inch cast iron skillet) with butter.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Combine the wet ingredients (including honey) separately. Stir the wet mixture into the dry, mixing just enough to thoroughly combine. Spread into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the center is firm to the touch. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.
Adapted (very slightly) from Moosewood Cookbook, by Mollie Katzen (1992 Revised Edition).

Onion & Egg Yogurt Egg Curry 2/22

Onion and Egg Yogurt Curry
Served with brown rice and broccoli
  • Serves 4
  • 20 minutes
    (excludes time cooking hard boiled eggs, which can be done ahead)
Note: I used organic ingredients including cage-free organic eggs, this added 75 cents per serving to my costs.

$0.74 per serving: Vegetarian and Gluten-free
$1.20 per serving: Vegan (substitue firm tofu for egg)

If you aren't used to cooking curries, this may be a very easy one to start with. It is super yummy, with a nice spicy kick. All the spices used are readily available in most supermarkets now.
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons corriander seed, finely ground
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 2 closes garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cayanne pepper
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (whole or low-fat), whisked
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar (vegan-omit or substitute turbinado or agave)
  • 8 large eggs, hard boiled*, peeled and cut in half
*I had to look up the hard boil process, so I will share it (forgive me if like most people you already know how to do this simple process). Put the eggs in a pan, cover with water about an inch over the top of them, bring eggs and water to a boil together, turn heat off when they reach a boil, come back in 10 minutes.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and saute the onion until it turns very dark brown (carmelizing the onion this way adds a sweet, nutty flavor).

Add the spices (exept salt and sugar) and stir constantly over medium heat until the mixture turns golden brown, about 3 minutes. This will happen quickly so be careful it doesn't burn.

Whisking constantly, add the yogurt into the onion mixture. Turn the heat down to low and simmer until the yogurt thickens and the oil separates and begins to float on top. Add the water, salt, and sugar and bring to a boil again, then turn the heat down to a simmer.

Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet over medium heat, add the remaining tablespoon of oil, and place the eggs (cut side down) in the pan. When they brown slightly, turn them over and repeat on the other side. This step helps seal the yolks in so they don't fall out in the curry later. Vegans - do the same with firm tofu instead.

Add the browned eggs (or tofu) to the curry sauce and simmer for an additional minute to heat through. Serve immediately over rice.

Source: 5 Spices, 50 Dishes: Simple Indian Recipes Using Five Common Ingredients, by Ruta Kahate (2007)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Menu for Week of Feb. 22, 1010

Hiya everyone.

Sorry for the dreadful lack of positngs the last three weeks. But, you know, life happened.

But dinners are back now - thanks for understanding!

To help keep food costs as low as possible (challenging for an organic-loving, tree-hugging hippie like me), I menu plan four weeks at a time. I was inspired to do this after reading America's Cheapest Family last year. (This is a great book - I highly recommend it!)

If you think menu planning is something you might like to try, the template I use can be downloaded by clicking here.

You can learn a lot about basic menu planning at Try one week at a time first, before long you will have 4 weeks planned too!

#1 reason to menu plan - the 30 minutes of planning will easily save you $50 a week (or more) on grocery shopping if you stick to your list!

#2 reason to menu plan - you get to be a super cool organizational geek like me!

Daily recipes and photographs will resume with tonight's meal. You should note that DH and I are abstaining from meat during Lent so through April 3rd all meals will be strictly vegetarian.

The following is our menu for this week:

  • Monday: Onion & Yogurt Curry served over brown rice, with fresh broccoli on the side

  • Tuesday: Vegetarian Chili with home-made cornbread

  • Wednesday: Adas be Sabanekh (A stew made of lentils with spinach & lemon)

  • Thursday: Cauliflower Pumpkin Pasta

  • Friday: Homemade Pizza with Fennel & Orange Salad

  • Saturday: Kabak u Pilau (Squash w/ bulgar pilaf) and Ginger-poached Pears w/ Ricotta & Blueberries

  • Sunday: Chickpea Curry w/ Fresh Dill Leaves served with Marahi Yellow Fried Rice and Roasted Onion Raita
Recipe sources this week: "5 Spices, 50 Dishes", "30 Minute Meals" by Rachel Ray, "The Moosewood Cookbook", "Mediterranean Cooking", and "Lidia's Italy" by Lidia Bastianich.

Note: we tried two new projects in the kitchen this week. The first was homemade granola bars and the second was homemade yogurt. Both were resounding successes. If you'd like the recipes, please e-mail me at