Vegetable-Barley Casserole

When I was younger -- in middle school and high school, mostly -- my mom was known amongst my friends for making casseroles. Every time I had people over, she would come up with some new concoction that would inevitably be a hit. I remember she had a pizza casserole that was popular, and her breakfast casseroles are famous amongst our family members (we still eat one every Christmas morning).

I can't say I love casseroles quite as much as my mom does, but I do enjoy a good one from time to time. Of course, my casseroles don't involve as much meat as hers used to, and they're certainly more healthy than I remember hers being. (Coincidentally, or not, my casseroles are also usually less delicious than hers.) But they're still pretty good. This one, for example, has lots of chewy barley, tomatoes, greens, corn, spices, and of course, some cheese to add the comfort factor. It's not my mom's recipe, but it'll do in a pinch.

Vegetable-Barley Casserole
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups corn kernels, thawed and drained if frozen
  • 3 cups Swiss chard, thick stems removed, coarsely chopped
  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 cups cooked barley
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (low-fat if you prefer)
Preheat oven to 350 F. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, corn and Swiss chard; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent and chard is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, barley, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Heat through.

Coat a 2 1/2 to 3 quart baking dish with cooking spray. Spoon barley mixture into prepared dish in an even layer; sprinkle with cheese. Bake until cheese melts and mixture is hot, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before slicing into 4 to 6 pieces.

Variations: Add some canned black beans to this to make it even more filling.

Rice with Sage-Infused White Bean Sauce

I was out of town for most of last week at my company retreat in the Poconos (hence my lack of new posts). To say it was intense would be an understatement. There was a lot of early waking, sitting in sessions, listening to panels, forced group recreational activities, and heavy drinking/carousing until the wee hours. Not to mention unhealthy (and, to be frank, kind of disgusting) food for every meal.

So when I got home, I wanted something that was calming and healthy. I was flipping through one of my handy cookbooks, One Dish Vegetarian Meals, and came across this little gem. It's rice with sauce, which kind of intrigued me. But if you can put sauce on pasta, why not rice?

Turns out it's a great idea. I used chewy, nutty wild rice to give substance to the meal, while the sauce itself is simple but very yummy. Served alongside a simple green salad, this was just what I needed to get myself back on track.

Rice with Sage-Infused White Bean Sauce
From One Dish Vegetarian Meals 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 1/2 cooked or canned Great Northern beans or other white beans, rinsed and drained if canned
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • About 2 cups uncooked wild rice
Put the rice on to cook, according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the carrot, onion, garlic, and sage and saute until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the beans and broth, bring to a simmer, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the liquid reduces slightly and the vegetables are very soft. Transfer the bean mixture to a food processor and puree until almost smooth. Transfer the bean puree to a saucepan, season with salt and pepper, and stir. Reheat the sauce over low heat and serve over the hot cooked rice.

Black Bean Tostadas

So, this recipe isn't the most seasonally appropriate thing I've ever made, but I had a Mexican craving yesterday that had to be satisfied, and this was how I did it. Tostadas are such a quick and easy no-cook meal -- just throw the topping ingredients together in a bowl, toast some tortillas in a dry skillet or over the open flame of a gas stove, pile the former on top of the latter, and voila.

I estimated quantities in the ingredient list (enough to make topping for about 4 small tostadas, or a 2-person serving), but this is a completely adaptable recipe. Do whatever you like. If you want to go heavy on the avocado, knock yourself out. If you hate cilantro, omit it. This isn't the kind of recipe where precision is really needed. It will be good no matter what you do with it.

Black Bean Tostadas
  • 1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 Tbsp red onion, minced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 medium jicama, peeled and diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup frozen corn kernels, rinsed under hot water to defrost
  • 1/4 cup avocado, diced (about 1/2 small avocado)
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved (about 12 tomatoes)
  • 4 Tbsp canned green chili peppers
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice, from about 1 large lime
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro, fresh, chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 small corn tortillas
Combine all ingredients, except tortillas, in a large bowl; mix to combine. Toast tortillas and top each with about 3/4 cup of bean mixture.

Fall Vegetable Curry

Joe and I have this great routine on Monday nights. (I probably find it more great than he does, but bear with me.) I go to my Zumba class after work to shake my booty and burn calories while looking like a flailing idiot (but a flailing idiot that's having fun). Then I come home, shower, and eat a home-cooked meal prepared lovingly by Joe while we watch Jeopardy! together. Finally, I curl up on the couch (while he retreats to the bedroom to do work or Spanish lessons) to watch that evening's episode of The Greatest Show of Our Time.

(Speaking of which, did you guys watch last night?! Uh, I basically needed a cold shower after the last 2 minutes of the episode. SO. GOOD.)

Anyway, this is what I came home to after Zumba last night. The apartment smelled amazing - even from the inside of the shower. Curry, you are so wonderful.

Fall Vegetable Curry
From Cooking Light
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced peeled sweet potato
  • 1 cup small cauliflower florets
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
  • 2 teaspoons Madras curry powder (if you don't have Madras, use regular curry powder and a pinch of cayenne pepper)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
  • Cooked rice, for serving (I used brown basmati)
Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sweet potato to pan; sauté 3 minutes. Decrease heat to medium. Add cauliflower, onion, and curry powder; cook 1 minute, stirring mixture constantly. Add broth and next 3 ingredients (through tomatoes); bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with cilantro; serve with yogurt and cooked rice.

Variations: The original recipe suggested adding a handful of chopped cashews to the cooked rice just before serving.

Lentil and Black Bean Chili

Sorry for the long blog absence! Last week I was working crazy hours (well, "crazy" for a non-profit lawyer, anyway) writing a brief that was due yesterday. I cooked last week, but usually forgot to take a picture and ultimately decided it wasn't really worth blogging about anyway.

But I'm back now. And hello, winter weather! I don't know about you guys, but it's officially cold in DC. Not, like, the hypothermia-inducing, can't-go-outdoors-without-20-layers Boston weather that I'm used to, but I definitely wore my winter coat to work this morning. October, I barely knew ye.

Anyway, what better cold weather fare than a hearty vegetarian chili? This one's super healthy and quick. It's nothing that'll blow your mind, but it's just really satisfying and meant to be eaten on a cold night while cuddling on the couch under a blanket watching TV with your significant other and/or dog.

Lentil and Black Bean Chili
  • 1-1/2 cups dried lentils, washed and picked over for stones
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large sweet red pepper, diced
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (be generous)
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • Salt to taste
  • One large 29-oz (or two small 14-oz) cans fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained
  • Two 14-oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped
Place lentils in a large sauce pan and cover with water by several inches; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until lentils are tender but retain a little bite, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain well and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook onion, pepper, and garlic, stirring often, until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add chili powder, oregano, cumin, cayenne, and salt; stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and their juice, along with beans. Stir well to combine, then cover skillet and simmer so flavors can blend, about 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in lentils and cilantro.