No Croutons Required - The Winner for January

no croutons required

The challenge for January was to get creative with leftovers and come up with a soup or salad suitable for vegetarians. We certainly had a lovely turnout this month and I want to try each dish. A big thanks to all who submitted their creations. We must however, crown a winner. Congratulations to Janet of The Taste Space who submitted this creative and absolutely irresistible Carrot Ginger Lime Soup with Sweet Potato Hummus. Adding leftover hummus to soup had never occurred to me, but I adore the idea.

carrot ginger soup

Jacqueline with be hosting the February edition of No Croutons Required. Check back at the beginning of the month for the theme.

Healthy Peanut Butter Cookies

You might think that healthy and cookie don't go together in the same bite, but in this case I assure you that they do. Very little sugar is included in this batch of goodness, and if you use a good quality natural peanut butter without added sugar, and only a scattering of chocolate chips, your tummy won't be grumbling in protest if you have a few more than you meant to. These are also eggless cookies.

peanut butter cookies

Once again, boldness in the kitchen paid off. Coming up with savory meal dishes has become second nature to me, but when it comes to baking I tend to stick to tried and true recipes. But after the success of my Guinness gingerbread cake, I figured I would try my chances with a homespun cookie recipe. The result was quickly devoured and turned out to be a perfect little snack to settle queasy tummies. Chewy, without being overly moist, with a slight crumbly texture, I have already made a few batches because they are so easy to prepare and a delightful way to get a mellow sugar fix from baked treats.

Healthy Peanut Butter CookiesHealthy Peanut Butter Cookies
Recipe by
Published on January 29, 2013

Simple, chewy, delicious and wholesome eggless peanut butter cookies made with natural peanut butter and just a little sugar

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  • 1 cup spelt flour or unbleached white flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup chocolate chips, as preferred
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons brown sugar, as preferred
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 tablespoons crunchy natural peanut butter
  • 7 tablespoons whole milk
  • a few drops of vanilla
  • Preheat an oven to 350° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  • In a medium bowl, combine the flours, oats, salt, baking soda and chocolate chips.

  • In another medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, butter, peanut butter and milk. Stir in the vanilla. Transfer this mixture to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.

  • Shape the dough into 12 to 15 small balls, flattening each one slightly, and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the cookies are firm and slightly browned — about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand on the sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

Makes 12 to 15 cookies
peanut butter cookies

More cookies from Lisa's Kitchen:
Chocolate Orange Cookies
Cayenne Peanut Butter Cookies
Flourless Peanut Buttter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

On the top of the reading stack: Savory Pies: Delicious Recipes for Seasoned Meats, Vegetables and Cheeses Baked in Perfectly Flaky Pie Crusts by Greg Henry

Audio Accompaniment: Biosphere

Peach and Bocconcini Salad with Arugula

peach salad

I am craving spring and it is no secret to those that know me and check in on my space that I despise winter. My smallish frame has a most difficult time keeping warm, even in my apartment, even when I am cooking and baking in my kitchen. I adore old houses but the draftiness and lack of proper insulation make for a good number of cold months in a row with little relief. In addition to that, I miss the warming sun on bare skin.

I suppose that is one of the reasons I made this refreshing peach salad that can hardly be said to be seasonal here in Canada, but I can dream of warmer times. I rarely use canned ingredients, but was invited to try California cling peaches that are not packed in that usual syrupy, sugary mixture of unpleasantness nor with nasty preservatives. I do tend toward soups, stews and baked dishes for dinner during these dreary months, but we all need a bit of sweetness in our diet, no matter the time of year. Store this one away for fresh peach season or just hurry off to the store and get some canned peaches as I did if you can't wait that long.

Mild bocconcini cheese really takes on the natural sweetness of the peaches and tartness of the vinegars, especially when marinated, and the earthy tender greens and fresh basil fill out the whole taste experience. You won't be disappointed with this delightful side salad.

Peach and Bocconcini Salad with ArugulaPeach and Bocconcini Salad with Arugula
Recipe by
Adapted from the California Cling Peach Board
Published on January 27, 2013

Simple and refreshing, slightly sweet and savory salad of marinated peach slices and bocconcini cheese served over arugula

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  • 14 oz (400 ml) can water-packed and sugarless California cling peach slices
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • splash of rice vinegar (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 9 to 10 1-inch bocconcini balls, cut into quarters or halves
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, cut into fine strips
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons pistachios or coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)
Note: Use 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar in place of the balsamic and champagne vinegars if desired and do experiment with the vinegars and oils you have on hand.
  • Drain the peaches, reserving a few tablespoons of the liquid.

  • Whisk together the vinegars, 1 to 2 tablespoons of the reserved peach liquid, olive oil, fennel seeds, red chili flakes and salt. Gently stir in the bocconcini cheese and peach slices, and marinate for at least an hour at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.

  • Add the basil and gently toss. To serve, line salad plates with some arugula, drizzle over some of the dressing and top with peach slices, bocconcini cheese and basil. Sprinkle with pistachios or chopped walnuts if desired.

Makes 3 to 4 servings
peach salad with bocconcini and arugula

More refreshing salads from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen you are sure to enjoy:
Avocado Salad
Creamy Coleslaw
Chickpea and Fresh Ginger Salad
Fig Salad with Fresh Basil, Arugula, Goat Cheese and a Pomegranate Vinaigrette

On the top of the reading stack: copious number of notes

Audio accompaniment: Pantha du Prince at Shanti 7.12.2008

Spicy Carrot Soup with Ginger and Paneer Cubes

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
carrot soup with paneer cubes

Carrots are one vegetable that I pretty much always have on hand. They keep for a good while in the fridge and can easily be tossed into salads, stews or soups, or just eaten raw with or without dip. I got to thinking about my fresh bag of carrots and decided that carrots ought to shine as a centerpiece of the meal from time to time and so the idea of this elegant nourishing soup with plump, lightly fried paneer cheese cubes was born and subsequently devoured. My husband declared it was probably the best carrot soup he has ever eaten and, humble cook that I am, I tend to agree.

If you want a vegan version, use oil and coconut milk instead of butter and cream and omit the paneer cubes and use croutons instead, such as these ever-popular polenta croutons (without the Parmesan), fried tofu cubes or any other addition that suits your fancy.

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Heathy Vegetarian Game Night Snacks

Pretty much everyone enjoys winding down after a long day by playing or watching a game from time to time. Whether it be card games, board games or sporting events such as the upcoming annual Super Bowl, snacks occupy an essential aspect of the experience. As a long time vegetarian, I thought it would be appropriate to offer up some healthier alternatives to the greasy and salty snacks that often go along with gaming nights. You shall find no chicken wings nor greasy fries here!

To begin the evening, let us start with some savory appetizers from my kitchen that are sure to get everyone in the party mood.

stuffed mushrooms
Let us begin with Stuffed Mushrooms. These earthy mushrooms are stuffed and complimented by a wonderful array of savory flavors, from tart sun-dried tomatoes and Kalamata olives, spices and jalapeños, to creamy and slightly salty goat cheese. An amazing appetizer for any occasion, this recipe can of course be increased in quantity depending on the number of participants attending your party.

olive balls
How about some Olive Cheese Balls? Imagine a plump green olive nestled in a slightly spicy and crispy cheese pastry. For a maximum burst of flavor, I suggest you use an extra old Cheddar cheese. I'm quite certain you could substitute small sautéed button mushrooms for the olives. Better yet, double this recipe and make both for a simple and perfect appetizer.

Yes, it is getting cheesy as game night approaches, but these Smoked Gouda Gougères are not to be skipped. These delightful little airy puffs can be served with a red pepper dip, or just on their own, as I enjoyed them. Certainly a great hors d'oeuvre or snack and crowd pleaser.

roasted red pepper hummus
Dips for chips and sliced vegetables are in order as the evening progresses. Simple, creamy, zesty and Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Hummus is another popular choice to have on hand for your evening festivities. It's also vegan friendly if you leave out the cheese.

Tangy, spicy and fresh-tasting classic Mexican Guacamole served with blue corn tortilla chips or, better yet, homemade Spicy Baked Tortilla Chips can't fail to be a hit. If you want to make it a Mexican party, do include Quesadilla with Mushrooms and Black Bean Pastries on the menu. Your guests might never want to leave after this feast, so choose your friends wisely.

Nachos are a must for the party. My Spicy Nachos loaded with vegetables and smothered in cheese are always a hit and hard to resist. Homemade tomato chutney makes these even harder to resist.

Popcorn is always in order, especially if you spice it up while enjoying a glass of wine. Old fashioned stovetop-popped popcorn goes gourmet in Lisa's Kitchen. Generous handfuls are in order.

Enjoy your evening with good eats and good friends.

Beetroot, Leek and Walnut Salad

beet and walnut salad

I do tend to eat more soups than salads during the cold months, but this is a substantial and nourishing winter salad not to be missed and I see no reason why it shouldn't appear on menus all year round. Robust and earthy beets are gently tossed with a tangy and nutty vinaigrette that is balanced and enhanced by some sweetness from the presence of tamarind and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds. The contrast of flavors and textures in this dish make for one fine dining experience and your guests will never guess just how easy it is to put together. Simplicity is often the most gourmet feature of the meal.

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No Croutons Required - Leftovers

The theme for January was to get creative with your leftovers and come up with a soup or salad to grace your table. A hearty thanks to everyone who found the time to submit their recipes. I will announce the most popular submission at the end of the month with input from friends and family. Please vote for your favorite via email or in the comment section to help us come up with the winner for this month's challenge. Neither my submission, nor Jacqueline's, is eligible for the vote.


Our first entry is from Sarah of Dinner with Crayons with a most tempting Sprout Coleslaw With Cranberries and Pecans. This creative use of leftover vegetables from Christmas is easy to toss together. Brussels, celery, onion, mushroom, sage leaves, dried cranberries and pecans are dressed with mayonnaise, white wine vinegar and horseradish. It's a raw salad, and even her young son tried some after helping his mommy in the kitchen. I couldn't resist this wholesome combination.

carrot parsnip soup

Next up is Lisa of We Don't Eat Anything With a Face with this elegant Spiced Parsnip and Carrot Soup. Adapted from one of my favorite veggie cookbooks, this soup is a great way to use up leftover root vegetables and to introduce parsnips to the table too. Onion, parsnips, carrots and potatoes are spiced up and pureed with ginger, cumin, freshly cracked black pepper and served with a swirl of heavy cream just before serving. Yes please - satisfying on it's own but especially when accompanied by some crusty bread.

squash hazelnut soup

Ren, who shares her cooking adventures at Fabulicious Food, serves up a gorgeous bowl of Butternut, Coconut and Hazelnut Soup. This paleo-friendly dish is not only good for you, but surely absolutely delicious too. Onion and celery come together with butternut squash, stock, coconut milk and then sprinkled with leftover chopped hazelnuts before serving and drizzled with some avocado oil if desired.

spring onion soup

Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe needed to find a way to use up an excess of spring onions and she comes up with a winner here with this Spring Onion Soup adapted from one of my favorite cooks that leaves me even more eager for spring than I was before reading her post. The onions are fried up and then pureed with garlic, bay leaves, peas, zucchini and lots of fresh parsley. Stir in some grated Parmesan and yogurt, garnish with fresh mint and and lemon zest and you are in for a satisfying bowl of bliss. Certainly worth all of the chopping.

mixed vegetable coconut curry

My contribution this month is a Mixed Vegetable Coconut Curry that was fairly mild by my spicy standards but full of flavour and goodness and a perfect cure for the winter chills. I had plenty of fresh vegetables on hand that I need to use up and combined cauliflower, potato, carrots, green beans, peas, spinach and fresh dill with a coconut paste made up of poppy seeds, chilies, ginger, coriander, turmeric, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, asafetida, cinnamon and cloves. Serve hot with fresh cooked rice and your favorite Indian savory flatbread for a satisfying and nourishing vegetarian meal.

carrot cardamom soup

Karen of How to Cook Good Food enters this month with a lovely Spiced Carrot, Cardamom and Orange Soup. Vegetables and fruit leftover from Christmas grace the table. Carrots, leeks, harissa, cardamom, stock and freshly squeezed orange juice are blended together and served up with a few swirls of cream. Easy to prepare and a wonderful use of carrots that won't fail to please vegetable fiends. Graceful simplicity is often just what we want for dinner, especially when we are pressed for time but don't want to sacrifice nutrition or taste.

beet soup

Clevergirl of Don't Forget Your Shovel shares her Wintertime Beet Soup and beet fan that I am, I could not resist a bowl of this that surely would warm the toes and spirit. Clevergirl is clever indeed and freezes her beet greens and beet stock so she can whip up a nourishing meal with those prized leftovers. In this case, she uses a microwave to speed up the process but you could do it on the stovetop. The beet greens and stock come together with mushroom soup, caraway seeds and lots of freshly cracked black pepper.

cauliflower cheese soup

Jacqueline is up next with this tempting and creative use of leftover cauliflower and broccoli with cheese sauce that she transformed into a creamy Cauliflower Cheese Soup with Broccoli. Steamed cauliflower and broccoli is combined with a cheese sauce made up of infused milk, bay leaves and garlic and then stirred into a butter and flour mixture. Everything is whizzed together with veggie stock and then served with some freshly cracked black pepper, cayenne and sprinkled with fresh chives. How eloquent and mouthwatering is that?

Carrot Ginger Lime Soup with Sweet Potato Hummus

Janet of the Taste Space comes up with a stunning use of leftover sweet potatoes that I simply must try, soon. Feast your eyes on this Carrot Ginger Lime Soup with Sweet Potato Hummus. You can just use leftover roasted sweet potato of course, but for something extra special and easy too, use your leftover sweet potato hummus in a soup for some additional protein, flavour and nourishment. The hummus (a combination of sweet potato, chickpeas, sesame oil, tahini, curry powder and lemon juice) is blended together with carrots cooked in almond and soy milk, and fresh ginger, lime juice, garlic and garnished with fresh cilantro before serving.

winter salad

Karen of Lavender and Lovage offers up a multi-layer luscious Leafy Green Winter Salad with Fennel and Parmesan inspired by Nigel Slater. Certainly greens are a must year round and this comforting and substantial salad has winter greens a plenty dressed with tarragon vinegar, egg yolk, olive oil, Parmesan, fennel, dijon mustard and is adorned with a generous number of homemade croutons made from some leftover homemade French bread. The blend of flavors and textures here is sure to please - just looking at the photos makes me feel healthy.

bean leek potato soup

From Shaheen of Allotment2Kitchen we have another warming and nourishing soup. I too hate wasting food and this White Bean, Leek and Potato Soup is pure comfort, especially if you get snowed in and don't have much on hand. Leftover mashed potatoes are used in a creative way combined with sauteed leeks, vegetable stock, white beans and some seasoning. There is some incentive to make more mashed potatoes than you need.

chickpea broccoli salad

Tasty Curry Leaf goes with a Middle Eastern theme with this wholesome Chickpea, Broccoli & Tahini Salad to use up some leftover chickpeas. Chickpeas, red onion and steamed broccoli are dressed up with tahini, olive oil, garlic and tamari. I would enjoy this 'hummus-style' salad anytime of year as it incorporates some of my favorite flavours and it is easy to make too and filling when served with crisp toasted bread.

And that concludes the roundup this month. Jacqueline will be hosting the February edition of No Croutons Required. Check back at the beginning of the month for the theme.

Curried Parsnip and Wild Rice Soup

parsnip soup

Now and then I purchase a vegetable that I enjoy eating but for some reason rarely ever cook with. The vegetable may sit around for a while, but the challenge of using it gives me occasion to find inspiration. In this case, the vegetable was a bag of parsnips and the inspiration was a soup submitted to our own No Croutons Required roundup from two years ago by mangocheeks of Allotment2Kitchen.

I'm delighted that I came across it again! Parsnips are surprisingly sweet when cooked and puréed, but retain their characteristic and unique flavor that's enhanced with a judicious seasoning of mild curry spices. And adding wild rice lends a wonderful nutty flavor and chewy texture that makes this creamy, warming and nourishing soup a real winner. It's beautifully simple too and likely to win over even the staunchest parsnip critics.

Curried Parsnip and Wild Rice SoupCurried Parsnip and Wild Rice Soup
Recipe by
Adapted from Allotment2Kitchen
Published on January 20, 2013

Thick, sweet and creamy, and warm and nourishing blended parsnip soup with wild rice and mild curry spices

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  • 1/2 cup uncooked wild rice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 lb (450 g) parsnips (about 4 large), diced
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 4 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • large handful fresh parsley, chopped
  • Bring 1 1/3 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in the wild rice, reduce the heat to low, and cover. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until the grains are just tender but not falling apart. Remove from heat and drain off any excess liquid. Set aside.

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the onion and stir for 3 to 5 minutes or until the onion starts to turn translucent. Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add the parsnips and stir to coat the vegetables with oil. Toss in the curry powder, ground cumin and turmeric, and stir to coat the parsnips with spices.

  • Pour in the vegetable stock and raise the heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 40 minutes or until the parsnips are tender.

  • Remove from heat and purée the soup with an immersion blender or in batches in a countertop blender until smooth, adding water or more vegetable stock if you want a thinner soup. Return to the stove and add the wild rice and half the chopped parsley. Simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes to warm the soup, then season with salt and pepper.

  • Serve hot or warm garnished with the remaining chopped parsley.

Makes 4 servings
parsnip soup with wild rice

More root vegetable soups that you will enjoy from my well stocked vegetarian kitchen:
Caribbean Sweet Potato Soup
Cream of Potato and Turnip Soup
Curry-Laced Pumpkin and Potato Soup
Potato Cauliflower Soup with Brown Rice

On the top of the reading stack: more newly arrived cookbooks

Audio Accompaniment: howling wind

Chickpea Mixed Vegetable Poriyal

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
chickpea vegetable poriyal

This is an easy and rather mild South Indian chickpea and vegetable curry — at least according to my standards of mild as regular readers who visit this space know that I do enjoy fiery dishes. It is an ideal addition to meals anytime of year, a delicious solution for using up leftover vegetables, and if you happen to be having it on a winter day, an effective cure for those cold weather chills. This is my idea of comfort food.

Poriyal or palya are dry-textured vegetable curries that make for an elegant starter or side dish, usually tempered with aromatic seeds and spices. This one is rather substantial because of the addition of plump chickpeas and I served it as a main. All you need to balance out the meal are some savory rice and urad dal pancakes, or hot fresh cooked basmati rice and perhaps a lightly dressed leafy green salad and some pleasant background ambience to complete the experience.

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Chipotle Pinto and Green Bean Corn Succotash

pinto bean and green bean corn succotash

This is about as quick and easy a supper idea as you can get, especially if you have a pot of beans cooked up ahead of time or if you use canned beans. Five minutes preparation and ten minutes cooking, and you have a delicious, zesty and nourishing simple supper or a terrific side dish for a Mexican-themed dinner.

It's an especially appealing idea if you're like me and have plenty of ears of fresh corn and green beans on hand during the summer but other seasonal vegetables can be substituted … even squashes or grated root vegetables in the winter. Of course if it doesn't have fresh corn it's not technically a succotash, but on the other hand a truly traditional succotash has lima beans and lard instead of pinto beans and olive oil and you can use frozen or canned corn. I don't imagine that your diners or dinner partner, or yourself for that matter if you happen to be dining alone, will be debating the technicalities as the meal is enjoyed. The most rewarding thing about cooking is coming up with new and innovative variations on classics and showcasing and eating the results.

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Roasted Squash with Tahini and Za'atar

roasted squash with tahini

If you enjoy roasted winter vegetables as much as I do and the tastes of the Middle East, then this recipe really needs no introduction. Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's latest book Jerusalem, this substantial and easy-to-prepare vegetarian main is an ideal nutty and earthy dish with a most pleasing layering of creamy textures and flavors to warm up the kitchen and the diners at the table. Serve anytime of year with your favorite variety of seasonal squash to nourish the body and mind.

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Pumpkin Gingerbread Waffles

pumpkin gingerbread waffles

There's nothing much more satisfying on a chilly winter morning than a hot cup of coffee and a large fresh-cooked pumpkin gingerbread waffle hot out of the iron and smothered with butter and warm maple syrup. The heavenly aroma of these waffles toasting on the griddle iron would be worth the trouble of making them alone. Once they're on the plate, you'll want to savor the light and chewy feeling in your mouth and let the irresistible flavors of dark molasses and gingerbread spices linger on your tongue for as long as you can. These might be the tastiest waffles you'll have ever eaten!

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Mixed Vegetable Coconut Curry

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
vegetable coconut curry

"As an Ayurvedic cook the most important ingredient we have to offer while cooking a meal is our own loving intention. When we make something for someone we give something that is personal. Our love and care goes directly into the food we are preparing and becomes part of the person who consumes it."
~ V. Sandhya

After holidays with plenty of rich food served up, our bodies begin to crave more purifying foods to fend off illness and revitalize the body and mind. Craving an easy-to-digest cleansing dose of gently spiced vegetables, I flipped through some of my favorite books and was inspired to make this simple mixed vegetable curry with coconut. This dish is simplicity at its finest and a complete taste experience when paired with some mung bean savory pancakes and a bed of hot fresh cooked brown basmati rice. Any combination of vegetables can be used, although I must admit that I was particularly smitten by the combination that I offer up here. A doctor could not have ordered a better cure for the winter chills.

The book that was the catalyst for this recipe is Mysore Style Cooking: The Secret Yogic Recipes of Mysore, India by V. Sandhya. This gem is one of the most graceful and nourishing cookbooks in my extensive collection. I am eternally grateful to Yogi Kitchen for the recommendation. Beautifully illustrated, strictly vegetarian, and inspired by her family's well-guarded recipes, Sandhya has a home-based restaurant where she serves yogis. If you want to learn about the healing food that comes from the region of Mysore, this is the book to get. Contained with the covers are plenty of ideas for legumes, grains, salads, vegetables, spice powders, breads, raitas and chutneys, and sweets. The majority of the offerings are vegan friendly too. Though I wish I could visit her home, I am happy to have a chance to recreate some of her delicious and nourishing recipes in my own kitchen.

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Spicy Brown Rice and Collard Greens

collard greens with brown rice

Legumes, whole grains and vegetables comprise the basic components of my daily vegetarian meals, but while I always spend at least some time and effort turning my legumes into flavorful and interesting dishes using spices, seasonings and different techniques, I typically spare less attention to the grains and vegetables and often simply cook them as they are to serve with condiments on the table. But once in a while it is a treat to find the little bit of extra time to dress up the grains and vegetables too.

Fortunately it doesn't require much extra time or effort at all to combine your grains and vegetables into a stunning and delicious side dish like this simple brown rice seasoned with ginger, spices and lemon juice and all tossed with sautéed collard greens and toasted almonds. Creamy, earthy and tangy, this colorful and nutritious dish has layers of flavor and texture, and takes no more than 15 minutes to make after about 10 minutes of preparation. It just might outshine the other items on the table.

Any leafy green can be used in this recipe — spinach, kale or chard, for example — but I used collard greens because I love their delicately sweet taste and they are supposed to bring good fortune if you eat them on new year's day, which I did. Here's hoping ... Be sure not to overcook whichever greens you choose.

Spicy Brown Rice and Collard GreensSpicy Brown Rice and Collard Greens
Recipe by
Published on January 8, 2013

Simple, creamy, earthy and tangy spiced lemon brown rice tossed with sautéed collard greens and toasted almonds

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  • 3/4 cup uncooked brown rice (2 1/4 cups cooked)
  • 1/4 cup raw almonds, sliced or halved
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bunch collard greens, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • juice from 1 lemon (2 tablespoons)
  • 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, minced or grated
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • Rinse the rice and soak for 8 hours or overnight in 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and set aside to cool.

  • Meanwhile, preheat an oven to 350°. Spread the almonds over a baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes or until the almonds are lightly browned and fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

  • Heat the olive oil in a large wok, saucepan or skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the collard greens and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes or until just starting to wilt. Toss in the ginger and cumin seeds, stir for a minute, then pour in half the lemon juice and let sizzle for a few seconds.

  • Add the ground coriander, cayenne and turmeric, stir for a few seconds, then stir in the cooked brown rice. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until the rice is warmed.

  • Remove from heat and drizzle the remaining lemon juice over top. Add the toasted almonds and season with salt and black pepper to taste. Toss gently to mix and serve hot.

Makes 4 servings
collard greens with brown rice

Other grain and vegetable side dishes you will enjoy:
Indian-Style Millet with Browned Onions and Green Beans
Quinoa Spinach Salad with Feta, Pomegranate and Toasted Almonds
Miso Rice with Carrots, Peas and Cherry Tomatoes
Cashew Rice with Dice Potatoes

On the top of the reading stack: For the Time Being by Annie Dillard

Audio Accompaniment: Pete Namlook

Mung Bean Pancakes (Chila)

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
mung bean chila

My obsession with savory Indian pancakes for breakfast with some spicy chutney and / or a dollop of yogurt continues. I make up a decent sized batch to last my husband and I a good few days — they can be reheated in foil wrap if made ahead of time as they preserve their rather delicate texture and slightly spicy, wholesome flavor for days. Or, needless to say, they can be simply served up right away, hot from the skillet. I never do mind room temperature food either myself, and if I am really hungry, I just plop any leftovers on the plate right from the fridge. When hunger hits, you won't be standing in front of an open fridge door for long if you know these nourishing delights are waiting for you.

They are of course a perfect and substantial accompaniment to any Indian meal, any time of day, or just as a snack. Consider rolling these ones up with a vegetable curry, or maybe a paneer curry, served with some rice on the side. The possibilities are endless, and once you experience the delight of making these in your own kitchen there is no turning back from Indian flatbreads and you'll be exploring many other variations. They really are easy to prepare — the only time consuming aspect is frying up each pancake, though the process can be streamlined by using two pans or a large electric skillet.

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Thai Green Curry Lentil and Vegetable Soup

thai curry lentil soup

I've found that the experience of learning to cook at home with fresh quality ingredients has had the effect of jaundicing my experience of most restaurant food these days. Although I do like to know what's in my food, I could forgo that precise knowledge occasionally in exchange for great vegetarian restaurant fare — but the truth is that I've simply become much more critical of the flavors, textures and variety of prepared food available locally. The convenience of dining out or ordering in is generally offset by the mediocre choices available.

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Curried Quinoa and Wild Rice Savory Cakes

quinoa wild rice savory cakes

After eating so much cheese over the holidays, a healthy, mostly vegan cleanse has been in order. This is an perfect winter dish that pairs well with a thick chickpea curry. I didn't even need to make chutney to go along with the patties, as the gravy from the chickpea dish was an ideal accompaniment for spooning over the cakes. For an especially balanced vegetarian meal, consider serving up a leafy green salad on the side. Crispy on the outside, moist inside, this is yet another treasured quinoa recipe that will be gracing my table year round.

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No Croutons Required - The Winner for December and the Theme for January

Staying true to tradition, the challenge for December was to submit a festive photo. Thanks to everyone who took the time to participate. The winner, as decided by Jac's husband, is Sarah of Simply Cooked with her tempting and warming photo of Cranberry and Walnut Muffins. Congratulations Sarah and I am wanting these, just right now.

cranberry walnut muffins

Now onto the New Year... The first challenge for 2013 is to come up with a creative vegetarian soup or salad making use of your leftovers. Holiday times and winter months always leave us with extra fare but consider that an invitation to dress up and transform the remains into a vamped up dish to satisfy the palate. No need to waste excess grains, vegetables, legumes or anything else you may have crying out for a renewed appearance on the table. All you need to do to participate is come up with your soup or salad, post about it mentioning I am the host this month with a link to this announcement, and submit your recipe via the linky tool at the end of this post by the 20th of the month. Note that only one entry per blogger will be accepted. Very much looking forward to your creative ideas. More details can be found here.