Archive for the ‘Vegan Optional’ Category

Simple, hearty, and satisfying – and entirely failproof in the crockpot.  Perfect, even for baby!

 Red Lentil Soup with Lemon

3 tablespoons olive oil, more for drizzling
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of ground chili powder or cayenne, more to taste
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup red lentils
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
Juice of 1/2 lemon, more to taste
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro


1. In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes.

2. Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper and chili powder or cayenne, and sauté for 2 minutes longer.

3. Add broth, 2 cups water, lentils and carrot. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.

4. Using an immersion or regular blender or a food processor, purée half the soup then add it back to pot. Soup should be somewhat chunky.

5. Reheat soup if necessary, then stir in lemon juice and cilantro. Serve soup drizzled with good olive oil and dusted lightly with chili powder if desired.

Yield: 4 servings.

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As part of a rainbow diet, “white” foods don’t exactly have favored status.  But cauliflower is one of those white foods you can certainly consume in excess.  Here, it is seasoned with brightly-colored and aromatic spices.  It’s delicious freshly cooked, but even better the next day, after the flavors have a chance to meld together.

Spicy South Indian Cauliflower


1 large cauliflower (1 3/4 to 2 pounds), broken into florets
2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled, sliced and cut into thin slivers or minced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted and crushed
1 to 2 serrano chiles, to taste, seeded if desired and minced
1 cup chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, lightly toasted and ground
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Salt to taste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 lime, cut in wedges, for serving

1. Place the cauliflower in a steaming basket above one inch of boiling water. Cover and steam for one minute. Lift the lid and allow steam to escape for 15 seconds, then cover again and steam for five minutes or until the cauliflower is just tender. Remove from the heat and refresh with cold water. Quarter the larger florets, and set the cauliflower aside.

2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy nonstick skillet or wok above medium heat. Add the ginger, cumin seeds and chiles, and stir-fry for one minute. Add the cauliflower and stir-fry for two to three minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, ground coriander, cayenne, turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, for five minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked down and the mixture is fragrant. Taste and adjust salt. Stir in the cilantro, stir for another 30 seconds and then serve, passing lime wedges for squeezing.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6


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There’s been so much baking and sweets in our kitchen the past few weeks, I’ve been hankering for extra vegetables.  We’ve resorted to easy standbys, like bags of broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and chard.   While I would never tire of the aforementioned repertoire, I know the boys could use a shake-up. 

Pea shoots and tendrils are more of a spring / summer offering but in our part of the country, you can find them fairly easily, particularly in Asian markets.  Pea shoots and tendrils are tender enough to serve with no or minimal cooking, although I mostly prefer them lightly sauteed with garlic.  Rice Kernel isn’t always open to a dish of pea shoots by themselves, so tonight we’ve mixed in some shredded cabbages, carrots, and several cloves of garlic.  Sauteed simply with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, it is the ideal, detoxifying vegetable dish after a month of candy and pumpkin baking projects!

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I love brussels any way.  But Rice Kernel won’t touch more than a couple (“They taste funny,” he says.)  One of the healthiest vegetables, brussels are similar to cabbage and broccoli, both of which Rice Kernel consumes happily.  But, clearly, he is bothered by their somewhat strong flavor and smell.  Carmelizing the little cabbages with some sweet syrup, however, transforms the nutritional powerhouse that makes them much more palatable for the non-sprout lover.

Mapled Brussel Sprouts, from Bon Appetit


4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved lengthwise
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature (or oil)
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh chives
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh sage


  1. Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches and adding 2 more Tbsp. oil between batches, cook brussels sprouts, cut side down, in a single layer in skillet until deep golden brown, 4–5 minutes. Season brussels sprouts with salt and pepper and toss; cook until tender, 3–4 minutes longer. Transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Remove skillet from heat; add maple syrup, butter, and herbs to pan. Once butter has melted, add brussels sprouts to skillet and toss to coat. Transfer brussels sprouts mixture to a large serving platter and drizzle lightly with oil.


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Claire, like Rice Kernel at the same age, is taking to solid foods slowly.  Even though she moves her mouth and smacks her lips when the family eats, she doesn’t take down much – other than my milk.  The good thing is, she’s always willing to try something new.  After starting out with fruits and other vegetables, I finally got to peas around her 7 1/2 month mark.  She had a few teaspoons, as she normally does with other “solid” foods.  I froze several portions in cubes for her and used the remainder in a recipe for the rest of the family – pasta coated in a vibrant, flavorful roasted garlic pea puree. 

Although this recipe would be a great use-up for fresh peas in the Spring, using frozen peas made the whole process quick and easy.  Not only that, but frozen veggies are picked and packaged at the height of their ripeness, so they retain more nutrients than most fresh produce. 

Pea Puree

1 10-ounce bag frozen peas, preferably organic

  1. Place package of frozen peas in boiling water and simmer 5 minutes, until tender.  Drain. 
  2. Once the peas are all cooked, put them in the food processor or blender and puree.
  3. Puree until they reach the desired consistency.  Mine were a bit thick, so I added a small amount of water. 
  4. Freeze in cubes (for baby) or combine in recipe below (for the rest of the family!)

Roasted Garlic and Pea Puree Pasta, from Epicurious

1 head garlic
two 10-ounce packages frozen peas, thawed
2 cups water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves
3/4 pound pasta, such as farfalle
1/2 cup fresh snow-pea or pea shoots


  1. Preheat oven to 425° F.
  2. Cut 1/2 inch off top of garlic head, discarding it, and wrap garlic tightly in foil. Roast garlic in middle of oven 30 minutes, or until very soft, and cool. Squeeze roasted garlic from head into a blender.
  3. In a saucepan boil thawed peas in 2 cups salted water until just tender, about 5 minutes, and in blender purée garlic, peas and cooking liquid, butter, lemon juice, tarragon, and salt and pepper to taste. In a saucepan keep purée warm, covered.
  4. In a 6-quart kettle bring 5 quarts salted water to a boil and cook pasta, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain pasta in a colander and in a bowl toss with sauce, snow-pea or pea shoots, and salt and pepper to taste

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This is baking-contest -champion and healthy food blogger Camilla Salsbury’s recipe for pumpkin whoopie pies.  Made with fiber-rich pumpkin and whole grain, these are a lighter take on the traditional version.  To make them a bit healthier, I substituted half the oil with applesauce.  And since these are cake-like to begin with, you won’t miss the oil much.

Traditional or Vegan

3 cups white whole wheat flour (or 1-1/2 cups a-p flour + 1-1/2 cups regular whole wheat flour)
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 15-oz can solid pack pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

2 8-oz packages 1/3-less fat cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tbsp maple syrup or honey
Optional: 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly spray 2 cookie sheets with cooking spray, or line with parchment.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In a medium bowl, whisk the brown sugar, oil, pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla until blended. Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture, stirring until just blended and smooth.

3. Drop dough by heaping teaspoons ( a small cookie scoop works perfectly) onto the prepared cookie sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until just set. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

4. Filling: In a medium bowl, blend the cream cheese, confectioner’s sugar, maple syrup (and optional cinnamon) with an electric mixer on medium speed until blended and smooth.

5. Let cookies cool, then make sandwiches from two cookies filled with the filling.

Vegan Whole Wheat Pumpkin Whoopies

Prepare as directed, but
(1) Use flax eggs (see below) in place of the 2 eggs

(2) Use 2 8-oz tubs non-dairy cream cheese (such as Tofutti better than cream cheese) in place of the cream cheese

(3) Use maple syrup or agave nectar in the filling.

Flax Eggs: In blender, process 3 tbsp ground flax seeds (flaxseed meal) and 1/2 cup water for 1 minute or until thickened and frothy.

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Around this time of year, my fridge is full of baby kale.  The huge organic bags make their appearance at the market and neither FHE nor I can keep our hands off them.  This is a sweet vegetable side that comes together in minutes.  The tender, peppery kale is highlightened with a splash of red wine vinegar in this otherwise “sweet” hash of corn, bell peppers, and onions. 

Kale with Sweet Vegetable Medley

1 lb baby kale
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, any color, chopped
1 cup corn, frozen or fresh
1 small zucchini, chopped
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
Cook onions, bell peppers, corn and zucchini in a saute pan with 1-2 tbsp olive oil. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until al dente.  Remove from heat and set aside.
In the same pan drizzle olive oil and add kale and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and vinegar. Toss in other vegetables to combine.

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