World's Easiest Butternut-Apple Soup

This butternut-apple soup is so easy, you can still make it even if you are:
  1. Asleep
  2. Dumb as a box of rocks
  3. Blackout drunk
  4. On any number of prescription or illegal drugs
  5. Having a psychotic break
  6. Hallucinating due to an undiagnosed brain tumor
  7. In the late stages of Alzheimer's
  8. Experiencing demonic possession
  9. All of the above
Also, it's delicious. So really, you have no excuse not to make it.

World's Easiest Butternut-Apple Soup
  • One quart-sized carton of vegetable stock
  • One package of pre-chopped butternut squash (if it's over 30 ounces, use only about 3/4 of it)
  • One yellow onion, cut into big chunks
  • Half an apple (any variety), cut into big chunks
  • Salt, pepper, ground nutmeg
In a soup pot, combine the stock, squash, onion, and apple. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes or until everything is soft and tender. Pour it into a blender (do it in batches if it won't all fit) and puree. (Be careful with blending the hot soup -- don't put the lid on the blender or it will explode due to escaping steam; just cover the top with a dish towel to prevent splatters.) Return to pot and add salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.

Roasted Tomato Enchiladas

This is one of my fave quick and easy dinners. I've made it a couple times now, so I was actually kind of surprised to learn that I had never posted it to the ol' blog. What?! I shall now rectify the situation immediately.

There's not too much introduction needed for this recipe. It produces a tray of delicious enchiladas stuffed with chewy tofu cubes, black beans, and cumin and smothered with roasted tomatoes and onions. And you can make it in, like, 20 minutes if you're speedy. Also, it has tons of protein and tastes great!

Roasted Tomato Enchiladas
  • One block of firm tofu, pressed ahead of time for 30 minutes to an hour, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (if you didn't press in advance, just blot the cubes with paper towels to remove excess water)
  • One 16-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Onion, chopped
  • Two regular cans or one big can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 4 large burrito-size flour tortillas
Preheat your oven to 350 F and lightly oil a 9x13 baking pan with some cooking spray. Hit a large non-stick skillet with some more of the cooking spray and heat over medium-high. Saute the tofu cubes until they're a nice golden brown on all sides, which could take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. While this is going on, combine the black beans, cumin, salt and pepper in a bowl. When the tofu is done browning, add to the black bean mixture and stir to combine well.

In the same skillet, add a bit more cooking spray and saute the onion until softened, 3-4 minutes. Add the can(s) of fire-roasted tomatoes with their juice and bring to a low simmer. While that's going, divide the tofu-bean mixture evenly among the four tortillas, roll them up, and put them in the baking pan with the seam side facing down. Pour the onion-tomato sauce evenly over the enchiladas and bake for 10 minutes or until completely warmed through.

Eggplant Lentil Chili Mole

I held off on blogging about this dish for a while because I had to think about it. The taste is really different, and it took me a few days of retrospection to decide that it's different in a good way, and that I quite enjoy it.

No surprise here, this dish is from Appetite for Reduction, a lovely vegan cookbook full of healthy recipes that I've been cooking my way through over the past couple weeks. CBS News has apparently called this "the world's most filling vegan dish" -- I'm not sure they've had a whole lot of vegan food based on that conclusion, but I'll grant that it is very filling and delicious to boot. It's a veg chili filled with eggplant that cooks till it's silky-tender; chewy, fiber-packed lentils; and a spice combo that's rounded out with some unsweetened cocoa powder, which really adds depth of flavor.

This would be fantastic with some cornbread on the side -- if you whip some up from a boxed mix, it'll be ready in the time it takes the chili to simmer.

Eggplant Lentil Chili Mole
From Appetite for Reduction
  • 2 pounds eggplant, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced medium
  • 1 red pepper, diced medium
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon mild chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup green lentils, washed
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar or maple syrup
  • Cilantro for garnish (optional)
Preheat a 4-quart soup pot over medium high heat. Saute onions and bell pepper in oil until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another minute, using cooking spray or a splash of water if it's sticking. Mix in chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, salt and cinnamon. Add 1/2 cup of the vegetable broth and the cocoa powder; cook for about 1 more minute, while stirring, to dissolve the cocoa.

Add lentils, vegetable broth, diced tomatoes and eggplant. Cover pot and bring to a boil, keeping a close eye. Once it's boiling, lower heat to a simmer and cook for about 40 minutes, until lentils are tender and eggplant is soft. Mix in agave. Taste for salt and seasoning.

Let sit for 10 minutes or so for maximum flavor. Serve garnished with cilantro if you like.

Caribbean Sweet Potato Gratin

This is the first recipe I tried out of another Christmas-gift cookbook, Moosewood Restaurant New Classics. I've been a Moosewood devotee for some years now, and I love their simple but delicious takes on everyday cooking in Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, which I've used for quite a while. (See, e.g., this chickpea and tofu curry.)

This new installment is less focused on quick-and-easy recipes (though there are still many of those), but rather more on fresh, healthy, delicious vegetarian recipes that you'll want to make over and over again. This recipe is a pretty good example of just that. It's a lovely gratin which layers thin sweet potato slices, black beans, rice, and spinach to bake in a lime-coconut milk broth with a crunchy cornmeal topping. I was a big fan of this dish. Have a simple green salad with some sliced avocado alongside to make this a perfect meal.

It falls apart on the plate a bit, but the taste makes up for the slightly sloppy appearance...

Caribbean Sweet Potato Gratin
From Moosewood Restaurant New Classics
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated lime peel
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups coconut milk (about 1 1/2 cans; freeze any leftovers for later use) (I used light coconut milk)
  • 4 cups peeled and thinly sliced sweet potatoes (use a mandoline if you have one)
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (one can, rinsed and drained)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh spinach, rinsed, stemmed, and chopped
For topping:
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly oil a 9x13 inch baking pan.

Combine the garlic, lime peel and juice, cilantro, thyme, salt, pepper, and coconut milk in a measuring cup. Pour one third of this mixture into the baking pan. Layer half of the sweet potatoes in the bottom, topped by half of the rice, half of the black beans, and half the spinach. Pour on another third of the coconut milk mixture and repeat the layers of sweet potatoes, rice, beans, and spinach. Pour the remaining coconut milk over all. In a small bowl combine all of the topping ingredients and sprinkle over the gratin.

Bake, uncovered, for about 60 minutes, rotating the pan in the oven after 30 minutes to ensure uniform baking. When the potatoes are tender and the topping is crisp and golden brown, remove from the oven and let sit for 2 to 3 minutes so the potatoes can absorb some extra liquid.

Serves 6.

Whole-Grain Spaghetti With Garlicky Kale and Tomatoes

I didn't discover the magazine Real Simple until a few months ago, but I totally love it. It's just gorgeously produced, and it has all these unusual (though admittedly sometimes a little silly) tips for getting your life organized. I always learn a few funny little things when I read it. Like, for example, if you want to find out the perfect way to sign-off on an e-mail, how to clean a fireplace, whether to eat before or after exercising, how to end a conversation with an overly chatty stranger, where to find the perfect sequined cocktail dress, what to look for in a floor lamp, or how to soothe your aching feet in four simple steps, you should definitely pick up the next issue.

This is the first recipe I've tried from the magazine, which always has a food section near the end. I think it was in an article on "heart-healthy meals." I can't remember which parts of it were supposed to be particularly heart-healthy; though I know garlic, kale, and tomatoes have all been shown to prevent heart disease for various reasons. Either way, this pasta was delicious and a certified boyfriend-pleaser.

Whole-Grain Spaghetti With Garlicky Kale and Tomatoes
From Real Simple
  • 6 ounces whole-grain spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and leaves torn into bite-size pieces (about 8 cups)
  • 2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/3 cup chopped almonds, toasted for a few minutes in a skillet (careful not to burn them!)
  • 1/4 cup grated pecorino (1 ounce), plus more for serving (feel free to sub grated parmesan)
Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta, and return it to the pot.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the kale and cook, tossing frequently, until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, tossing frequently, until the tomatoes begin to soften, 1 to 2 minutes more.

Add the kale mixture, almonds, pecorino, and reserved cooking water to the pasta and toss to combine.  Season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Serve with additional pecorino.

Sweet-Tart Split Green Lentils with Mustard (Moong Nu Dal)

I got this Indian cookbook called 660 Curries a while back, but I never made anything from it because it called for very "authentic" (i.e., hard to find) ingredients. Well, over the New Year's weekend, we had a house guest who wanted to cook Indian food for us, so he and I got on the Google and figured out where the nearest Indian market was. Only 15 minutes from my apartment! Very exciting. While we were there, I picked up a few of the ingredients I remembered seeing listed in the cookbook: mainly whole cumin seeds and various types of dal (lentils).

That inspired me to try out my first 660 Curries recipe. To do so, I had to track down a couple more ingredients, which I was able to find at my neighborhood health food store: mustard seeds and asafetida. (A note about asafetida -- this is the most pungent smelling stuff I have ever had the chance to sniff. I literally had to hold the jar at arm's length because it was so strong. The tiniest pinch in a dish will suffice to give it a garlicky, savory flavor and aroma, but if you don't want to bother trying to find a jar of it, you can omit it.)

Well, I was super pleased with how this dish came out. It's got tons of amazing flavor and tasted really authentic (no quotation marks this time). I would say it's absolutely worth tracking down an Indian market so you can make it too -- there's probably one in your neighborhood, and you just never knew it.

Sweet-Tart Split Green Lentils with Mustard (Moong Nu Dal)
Paraphrased from 660 Curries
  • 1 cup skinned split green lentils (moong dal)
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds (black or yellow)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • The tiniest pinch of asafetida
  • 1 large tomato, cored and finely chopped, or 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • Basmati rice
Cook rice according to package instructions. If you want to get creative with it, throw into the rice pot a couple whole cardamom pods, cumin seeds, and/or whole cloves (and a big pinch of salt). Remove the cardamom and cloves when the rice is done cooking (you can leave the cumin seeds in there since they're small).

Meanwhile, prepare the lentils. Place the lentils in a medium saucepan. Fill the pan partway with water and rinse the lentils by rubbing them between your fingers. The water will become cloudy. Drain this water. Repeat three or four times, until the water remains relatively clear; drain. Now add 3 cups water and bring to a boil, uncovered, over medium heat. Skim off and discard any foam. Continue simmering vigorously, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are barely tender, 10 to 12 minutes.

While the lentils are cooking, heat a small skillet over medium-high heat and pour in the ghee or oil. Add the mustard seeds, cover the skillet, and cook until the seeds have stopped popping (kind of like popcorn), about 30 seconds. Sprinkle in the cumin seeds and cook until they turn reddish brown, about 5 seconds. Immediately add the salt, cayenne, turmeric, and asafetida. Cook for no more than 5 seconds, and then add the tomato, brown sugar, and cilantro. Simmer, uncovered, over medium heat until the tomato pieces appear saucelike, 2 to 3 minutes.

Once the lentils are barely tender, add this slightly chunky tomato sauce to the pan, stir once or twice, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover the pan and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the dal has absorbed the flavors, 5 to 7 minutes. Serve with rice.

Confetti Fried Rice with Baked Tofu

There's a Chinese restaurant across the street from our apartment called Tasteful Delight (does that sound dirty to you, or is it just me?). Their food is nothing spectacular, but for some reason on especially cold nights the whole street just smells so intensely of whatever it is they're cooking in there. Like, fried goodness and hoisin sauce and brothy noodles and pork.

Needless to say, the temptation to stop in on my way home is often great. But, unsurprisingly, their food is really unhealthy. So when the craving for a little Tasteful Delight strikes, I try to make some healthy Chinese food at home. This dish, adapted from (you guessed it) Appetite for Reduction, is so quick and easy, especially if you use leftover rice. (I made something with rice last night, so I just made a few extra cups and stuck them in the fridge for this very purpose.) And it's so pretty with the shredded veggies -- that's why I called it confetti rice. You might even say that this dish is a tasteful delight.

Confetti Fried Rice with Baked Tofu
  • One block of firm or extra-firm tofu, pressed for 30 minutes to an hour
  • Soy sauce
  • 1 cup dry rice or about 3 cups leftover cooked rice
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup minced shallot
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • Zucchini, grated on the large holes of a box grater
  • Carrot (or 2 smallish carrots), grated on the large holes of a box grater
  • Scallions, chopped, for garnish
Preheat your oven to 375 F. If your rice isn't cooked yet, cook it according to package instructions and let cool spread out on a baking sheet for about 15 minutes. Slice the pressed block of tofu into 8 equal rectangles. Spray a baking sheet with some cooking spray and lay the tofu rectangles on it. Brush soy sauce onto both sides of the tofu. Bake for 20 minutes; spray the tofu with a little more cooking spray, flip, and bake 10 more minutes. For extra chewiness, put the tofu under the broiler for 3 minutes at the end.

Meanwhile, heat the sesame oil in a large saucepan or wok over medium heat. Cook the shallot, garlic, and ginger about 2 minutes. Add the zucchini and carrot and cook another 2-3 minutes. Add the rice and drizzle with about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of soy sauce. Mix thoroughly and cook until heated through, about 2 more minutes. Serve with the baked tofu and garnished with the scallions.

Moroccan Zucchini and Chickpeas

So I've pretty much learned by now that if a recipe has "Moroccan" in the title, I'm probably going to like it. I mean, that word tells me the dish is going to have lots of cumin and coriander, some cinnamon, some mint, and it's probably going to be served with couscous. That's a recipe for success in my book.

Another thing I've learned is that healthy eating is much easier when the food you prepare is really flavorful. Healthy food should never be bland or boring. You know what has zero calories? Spices. This recipe is a great example of a dish that's low-cal, low-fat, and super tasty because it has tons of aromatic and delicious seasonings. It's a great way to keep that new year's resolution going as long as possible.

Moroccan Chickpeas and Zucchini
From Appetite for Reduction
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, sliced thinly
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Generous pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup baby carrots
  • 2 zucchini, sliced into half-moons
  • One 24-oz can whole tomatoes
  • Two 16-oz cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, plus a little extra for garnish
  • Couscous, for serving
Preheat a large pot over medium-high heat. Saute the onions in the oil until translucent, about 4 minutes. Use a little nonstick cooking spray or broth if needed. Add the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes, and saute for another minute. Add the remaining spices and salt, and saute for about 30 seconds. Deglaze the pot with the veggie broth and mix in the carrots. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the zucchini. Break up the tomatoes with your fingers and add them to the pot, including the juice. Mix in the chickpeas.

Cover the pot and bring to a slow boil. Cook for about 15 minutes. Then adjust the lid so that there's some room for steam to escape. Cook for another 15 minutes; the liquid should reduce a bit, but not too much. Add the mint and let sit for about 10 minutes to let the flavors meld. While the stew is resting, prepare the couscous. Remove the bay leaves from the stew and adjust the salt if necessary. Serve the stew over the couscous and garnish with mint.

Miso Udon Stir-Fry with Greens and Beans

Over here at the ol' blog this week I'll be cooking my way through one of my new cookbooks, Appetite for Reduction (also the source of the chickpea piccata recipe in my last post). Like I mentioned, this book is full of healthy vegan recipes that are just right for the new year. If your resolution, like everyone else's, is to lose weight, these could be some great dishes to try.

Tonight I made this yummy stir-fry with udon noodles, veggies (broccoli and chard), azuki beans, and savory miso broth. I thought it was great just as it was, but you if you wanted to, you could definitely turn up the heat with some Sriracha hot sauce.

Miso Udon Stir-Fry with Greens and Beans
From Appetite for Reduction
  • 1 pound broccoli, stems sliced thinly, tops cut into florets
  • 8-ounce package udon noodles
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, coarse stems removed, chopped roughly
  • 1 cup thinly sliced scallions, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • One 16-oz can azuki beans, drained and rinsed (can substitute black beans)
  • 1/3 cup miso
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 4 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
Prepare a pot of salted water for cooking the noodles. Meanwhile, preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. First, saute the broccoli with a bit of nonstick cooking spray and a pinch of salt for about 5 minutes. Cover the pan and flip once or twice. The broccoli should be browned in some spots. Add a splash of water at the end, then cover for another minute. The pan should be steaming. Remove the broccoli from the pan and set aside.

At this point, the water should be boiling. Use a mug to remove 1/2 cup of water; you can use that to mix into your miso in a few steps. Then cook the noodles according to the package directions. Drain when ready.

Now we'll put everything together. Preheat the large pan again, over medium heat. Saute the garlic in the oil for about a minute, until fragrant. Add the chard, green onion, and salt, and saute for about 5 minutes, until wilted. Add the beans and let heat through.

In the meantime, in a mug or a measuring cup, mix together the miso and warm pasta water until relatively smooth.

Add the drained noodles to the pan, along with the miso mixture and broccoli. Saute for about 2 minutes, making sure everything is nice and coated. Taste for salt. To serve, top with sesame seeds and scallions (and Sriracha, optional).