Category Archives: Munchies

Eco-Saturday: Eat in season

We’re reaching that drizzly, chilly, depressing time of year when all the tomato vines are dead, most of the herbs are fading, and the farmers’ markets are winding down.

When the weather sucks, it’s tempting to buy the out-of-season produce that finds its way into the grocery store every winter.

Try to resist the temptation.

Out-of-season produce is almost always shipped in from some other country where the growing seasons are longer. To survive the trip without spoiling, it has to be picked early — before it’s ripe — and the varieties capable of traveling long distances are bred for durability, not flavor, so you’re going to end up paying extra for an inferior product that’s wasted a ton of fuel getting here.

Rather than subject yourself, your bank account, and the environment to that, look at what you can do with frozen and canned vegetables and whatever happens to be in season.

The Mother Earth News Almanac, which I reviewed on here last week, has a couple of good winter recipes, including an utterly divine potato-cheese soup I’ve made too many times to count.

Root vegetables (carrots, onions, turnips, radishes, potatoes, and sweet potatoes) are good this time of year and likely didn’t have to travel very far. Winter squash is also in season now, and mushrooms are grown year-’round.

If you like meat, try putting a roast or a few chicken breasts in the Crock-Pot with a can of beer and several cloves of garlic and cooking it overnight. If you don’t eat meat, dried beans are a good option — just soak overnight, simmer in the Crock-Pot all day, and serve over couscous for an easy, high-protein meal.

Cruciferous vegetables (kale, collards, turnips, cabbage) are in season. Slow-cook the kale, collards, or turnips, or shred the cabbage, fry it with bacon and onions, and spice it up with a little sriracha.

Apples and cranberries are also in season at the moment; grab some of each to make cranberry sauce. Many other fruits are available frozen or canned and work well in cobblers.

If you just can’t give up salads, use spinach or sprouts (easily grown on the countertop) as a base and add mushrooms, a handful of nuts, some bleu cheese, and maybe a diced Granny Smith apple or some thinly sliced radishes. Raw turnips also make a good addition to salads if you julienne them first.

And, of course, you can always find canned and frozen ingredients to get your family through the winter. Our favorites include chili; posole; gumbo; minestrone; green-chile stew; smoked sausage with canned sauerkraut; and Philly sandwiches made with frozen tricolor pepper strips.

Food doesn’t have to suck just because the weather does. Pay attention to what’s in season, and don’t be afraid to buy weird-looking roots you see at the grocery store. Between Google and Pinterest, you should be able to figure out what they are and how to use them.

Emily

Vegetarian Friday: Tomato-pepper soup

I found this recipe from Budget Bytes by way of Pinterest.

I riffed on it only slightly, so rather than plagiarize someone else’s recipe, I’ll just tell you the bits I changed, and you can click on over to the link above to get the full recipe, including tips for making it vegan without losing much flavor.

Here are my modifications/notes on the recipe:

1. Saute the onion until it’s translucent BEFORE you add the garlic, or you’ll scorch it. Garlic should never be sauteed longer than about 30 seconds — as soon as it starts to smell good, take it off the burner.

2. Diced tomatoes are fine if you can’t find crushed or don’t have any on hand.

3. If the 16-oz. jar of red peppers is cheaper than the 12-oz. jar, it’s fine to use all of it.

4. Remember that vegetable stock we made a while back? Two of your frozen cubes and a cup and a half of water will work well here.

5. I’m lazy and like my flavors assertive, so I used a tablespoon of my Italian seasoning blend in place of the basil and thyme. If you prefer less spice, start with the original recipe and go from there.

6. Skim milk is fine in place of whole if you’re counting calories (or just don’t have any skim milk on hand).

I love tomato soup. Ron usually doesn’t, but he really liked this recipe, which I served with pesto, some leftover crostini I’d bought for another project, and a generous helping of Parmesan cheese, so we’ll be having it again in the near future.

Emily

Vegetarian Friday: Southwestern cornbread

Mom's cornbread turns out lighter than mine. That's because she generally uses white cornmeal instead of yellow, while I lace mine with plenty of cumin and chili powder.
Mom’s cornbread turns out lighter than mine. That’s because I use yellow cornmeal instead of white and lace my batter with taco seasoning.

I’m posting this recipe mostly because today was sort of drizzly and chilly and a bowl of chili and cornbread sounded good, but it also occurred to me that some of you might be making homemade cornbread stuffing for Thanksgiving, and a good cornbread recipe would come in handy. This is based on my mom’s cornbread recipe; the spicy additions are mine.

If you’re making cornbread to enjoy with beans or chili, use this recipe as-is. If you’re making cornbread to use in your turkey stuffing, you should probably leave out the taco seasoning and green chile. If you double the recipe, don’t use two eggs; just swap the small one for a large one.

Smear plenty of butter on there. Now is not the time to be responsible about your fat intake.
Smear plenty of butter on there. Now is not the time to be responsible about your fat intake.

Ingredients
3/4 c. cornmeal
1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried minced onions
1 tbsp. taco seasoning (find my recipe here)
1 small egg
3/4 c. buttermilk
1 roasted green chile, chopped (OK to use canned, but frozen or freshly roasted will taste better)
1/2 tbsp. shortening or butter

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Melt shortening in a small iron skillet, coating sides and bottom evenly. Mix other ingredients in order. I stir the dry ingredients every time I add something, taking care to break up any clumps in the baking powder or soda, and then I stir in the eggs and buttermilk before adding the melted shortening from the skillet. (Mom’s instructions are slightly different, but I’m always afraid the hot butter will start to cook the egg if I don’t mix the batter before I add it.)

Pour into hot skillet and bake 15 to 20 minutes. (If you double the recipe, use a bigger skillet and bake for 25 minutes.) It’s ready when a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let cornbread cool in skillet. (Or, if you’re me, cut out a slice while it’s hot and burn the snot out of your fingers trying to put butter on it because you can’t be bothered to wait until it cools.)

Enjoy!

Emily

Vegetarian Friday: Soyrizo and eggs

I don’t have a photo of this week’s recipe, because I forgot to take one until we were halfway finished with our meal. Oops. I’ll try to remember to take a picture the next time I make this. On the up side, that should give you a pretty good idea of how much we liked it.

Anyway. The first time I had chorizo and scrambled eggs was at a diner in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, on our first trip west. I loved it, but when I tried to make it myself, it always turned out too greasy. A former student told me that was because I was using way too much chorizo relative to the number of eggs.

Chorizo is a type of Mexican sausage that’s used in tacos, breakfast burritos, and various other dishes. This recipe calls for a product called “Soyrizo,” which is a very convincing soy-based substitute for chorizo. It’s made by a company called Frieda’s, and I’ve found it in the produce case at just about every conventional supermarket I’ve been in. If you can’t find it locally, pester your local health-food store to carry it. It’s a good product, and one I’m pretty sure they’ll be able to sell.

Ingredients

6 large eggs
1 tbsp. taco seasoning
1/4 link Soyrizo
1-2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1-2 roasted green chiles, chopped (OK to substitute canned if necessary)

Crack eggs into a measuring cup or bowl and stir until the yolks and whites are mixed together thoroughly. Stir in taco seasoning and set aside.

Coat the bottom of a frying pan with olive oil, add Soyrizo, and mash it until it’s crumbled up. (The Soyrizo will come in a plastic casing. I just snip off the end of the casing and squeeze out as much of the sausage as I need. You can freeze the rest for later use.)

Add the eggs, green chile, and shredded cheddar to the pan and stir. Cook over medium heat until eggs are set, stirring frequently to scramble the whole mess together.

Salt to taste and serve with warm tortillas and salsa. (If you’re watching your carbs, you can skip the tortillas, but a chorizo breakfast burrito is worth the extra calories.)

Emily

P.S.: As always, nobody gave me anything to post this.

Vegetarian Friday: Onion soup in a bread bowl

Today’s recipe is kind of a two-fer. You can make the bread in oven-safe mugs and hollow out the resulting oversized rolls to use as bowls, or you can just make a regular loaf and serve big slices alongside the soup to use in place of croutons. I went with the former because it’s prettier, but it tastes just as good the easy way. Either way, top it with plenty of cheese.

For the soup:

Ingredients

4-5 medium yellow onions
2 tbsp. butter or olive oil
1 can cheap beer (Stag, Budweiser, whatever)
1/2 c. strong vegetable stock or 1 veggie bouillon cube
1 tbsp. dried parsley
Shredded white cheese (Swiss is traditional, but I prefer mozzarella)
Grated Parmesan

Chop up the onions and saute in butter or olive oil until they become translucent and start to caramelize.

Dump onions into Crock-Pot with all remaining ingredients except cheese. Add a cup or so of water and cook for 6-8 hours on low.

For the bread:

Ingredients

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole-wheat flour
3 tbsp. baking powder
1 can cheap beer
2 tbsp. honey
Oil or butter for the baking container(s)

Mix dry ingredients thoroughly, breaking up any clumps of baking powder. Using a sturdy wooden spoon, stir in beer, a little at a time, and then the honey.

If you’re making bread bowls, grease two to four of those big oven-safe Corning or Pyrex soup mugs — depending on how big you want the finished bowls to be — and use your hands to knead the dough just slightly and divide it among the containers. I used two and ended up with enormous rolls with enormous crowns — pretty, but I wound up cutting off the tops and carving out a LOT of bread to make room for the soup. Four mugs would have worked much better.

How ridiculous is the crown on this beer bread?
How ridiculous is the crown on this beer bread?

Bake at 350 until tops are brown and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. For two mugs, this takes about 45 to 50 minutes. A regular loaf pan generally takes upwards of an hour or more; smaller containers will go faster. (If you want to keep your portion size under control, muffin tins are a good alternative; plan on serving one or two rolls with each bowl of soup.)

I had to cut off the top before I could hollow out the space for the soup.
I had to cut off the top before I could hollow out the space for the soup.

For bread bowls, let the bread cool, then use a sharp knife to carve a big hole out of the middle, fill with hot soup, and top with mozzarella or Swiss and Parmesan.

Top with cheese. This is very important.
Top with cheese. This is very important.

This is a warm, comforting recipe for a chilly day.

Emily

Vegetarian Friday: Slow-cooker red beans

This is not a quick, easy recipe like the ones I normally post. It’s time-consuming. It involves some advance planning and a lot more ingredients than usual. And it is TOTALLY worth the effort.

If you want a quick version you can throw on the table in 20 minutes or less, with very little prep, I posted one a couple of years ago. What I’m posting today is the version you make when fall is finally settling in, the nights are just a little too cool for comfort, and you need something comforting and familiar with a kick of spice to warm you up.

Red beans absolutely MUST soak for 8-10 hours before you cook them, and they need to cook for a long time, so round up your ingredients ahead of time. This recipe is a variant of one I first tasted at a potluck during Twangfest in St. Louis about 16 years ago. The lady who made it shared the recipe, which in turn was a variant of one from a cookbook published as a parish fundraiser by the Holy Rosary School in Larose, Louisiana. She modified the original recipe for vegetarian purposes; I modified her version (which was baked for several hours) to work in a Crock-Pot, adjusted the proportions based on some stuff I needed to use up last night, and substituted a jar of my mom’s home-canned tomatoes and — of course — a hefty helping of roasted New Mexico chiles for the Ro-Tel listed in the original recipe.

Ingredients

1/2 lb. dried red beans
1/4 pkg. dry yeast
3-4 ribs of celery
1 green bell pepper
1 yellow onion
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. roasted green chiles
1 bunch green onions
5-6 cloves garlic
3-4 sprigs cilantro or parsley
1/4 c. Guinness or other stout
1 can whole tomatoes
1/3 pkg. Soyrizo (optional but SO good)
Jane’s Krazy Mixed-Up Pepper
Salt
1 can cheap beer (Stag, Budweiser, etc.)
3 bay leaves

Day 1: Place beans in crock, cover with water, and sprinkle with yeast. Let sit for at least 8-10 hours — overnight, while you’re at work, whatever.

Day 2: Drain and rinse beans. Cover with water and turn on Crock-Pot to high.

Split each rib of celery down the middle a couple of times, then chop finely. Coat the bottom of a large cast-iron skillet with olive oil, turn on the burner, and dump in the celery. Push it around occasionally with a wooden spoon or spatula.

While celery sautes, chop up the bell pepper. Add it to the skillet and stir.

Let the celery and pepper cook over medium heat for a few minutes, then add green chiles and stir. While the mixture cooks, chop the onion finely and add it to the pan. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is clear and starts to brown.

While the onion mixture cooks, peel the garlic. Lay the flat side of a chef’s knife on top of each clove and strike the flat of the blade sharply with your fist to crush the garlic. (Bruising it this way releases the flavor better.) Chop the crushed garlic finely.

Cut the root ends off the green onions and chop finely. Chop the cilantro or parsley finely. Add garlic, green onions and cilantro to the pan and cook for 30 seconds to a minute — just long enough to warm up the garlic a bit and release more flavor.

Add all the sauteed vegetables to the Crock-Pot.

Deglaze the pan with Guinness and add the deglazing liquid to the Crock-Pot. Stir.

Drain tomatoes and dump into skillet. Use wooden spoon or spatula to break them up into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle heavily with salt and pepper and simmer briefly, then add Soyrizo, breaking it up with a spoon as you mix it in. Let simmer a couple of minutes.

Dump tomato mixture into Crock-Pot. Deglaze the pan with the cheap beer. Pour the deglazing liquid into the Crock-Pot, stir in the rest of the cheap beer, and add bay leaves.

Cook 8-10 hours until beans are done. (They will be soft but not mushy — think al dente pasta, but in bean form. Red beans are always firmer than pintos or black beans, but they shouldn’t be hard in the middle.)

Serve over rice or couscous with plenty of Louisiana-style hot sauce available for those who like it spicier. (Rice is traditional, but I ran out and forgot to buy more, so we settled for whole-wheat couscous.)

Ridiculously time-consuming but inarguably wonderful.

Vegetarian Friday: No-bake recovery treats

These are a good, quick recovery snack after a hard workout.
These are a good, quick recovery snack after a hard workout.

This recipe isn’t particularly glamorous or photogenic, but it’s an absolute godsend if you happen to be an endurance athlete, because it’s an easy make-ahead snack you can keep in the refrigerator and grab quickly after a long run or a hard hill workout to give yourself a nice balance of protein, fiber, and sugar to keep you from crashing and speed muscle recovery.

Ingredients

1 c. rolled oats
1 c. peanut butter, almond butter, or a mix
2 tbsp. honey
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips (optional)

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Scoop out about a tablespoon of the mixture and form it into a ball. If the mixture seems too squishy, add more oats. If it seems too dry and crumbly, add more nut butter and/or honey. (The proportions aren’t precise, because the consistency of the nut butter you use will vary by brand, type, and oil content.)

Once you’ve adjusted the proportions as needed to make a workable texture, form the rest of the mixture into balls, place on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper, and chill until firm. Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Emily

Vegetarian Friday: Cranberry sauce

This post is late this evening because I had to pick up some canning supplies so I could put up today’s recipe as soon as I finished cooking.

Look at these gorgeous berries.
Look at these gorgeous berries.

About nine years ago, my friend Laurel gave me a big bag of cranberries she’d brought back from a Maine cranberry bog — and then, upon discovering I’d never made homemade cranberry sauce, gave me a recipe and instructions for making some.

I lost Laurel’s recipe in the Great Mac Crash of 2013, but I’d riffed on it in 2007 and had enough presence of mind to post it here.

I’m grateful for that. Laurel passed away in January. I think of her every year and smile as I listen for the berries to pop, remembering the day I stood in her kitchen in Tulsa as she explained the steps.

I smiled tonight, blinking back tears and remembering Laurel and thinking about how amused she would have been by the latest political revelations that were pouring into my Twitter feed as I stirred the sugar syrup.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I have and use it to make some happy memories of your own.

Ingredients
1 c. sugar
1 c. water
4 c. cranberries
2 apples, diced
1-2 c. other fruit (berries, grapes, or more apple if you like)
3/4 c. honey

Peel and chop apples. Wash cranberries and any other fruit you’re using. (I used grapes tonight because I had some on hand, but I’ve also used strawberries, blackberries and extra apples, all of which produced equally good results.)

Heat water and sugar together until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil, stirring frequently so it doesn't scorch.
Heat water and sugar together until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil, stirring frequently so it doesn’t scorch.

Stir sugar into water and bring to a boil in a big saucepan, stirring frequently.

I love the sound of cranberries cooking.
I love the sound of cranberries cooking.

Add fruit, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently. You’ll hear the berries pop as they cook. Remove from heat, stir in honey, and let stand to thicken.

Makes about 2 pints.

Cranberry sauce cans very well; just leave a half-inch of headspace and process for 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath. I made three batches tonight and put them up in wide-mouth pint jars.

Vegetarian Friday: Kettle corn

One of the foods I always associate with fall — along with hot cider and caramel apples — is kettle corn, which shows up at a lot of county fairs and harvest festivals.

I’m sharing the recipe now because I’m thinking of it, but you can make kettle corn at any time of year, and it’s way easier than you’d think. Cheap, too; I used to make it for our scholar-bowl team at Webster, and a batch big enough to feed two teams and all their alternates took about 50 cents’ worth of popcorn and sugar. The kids loved it and were disappointed if I let a game slip by without making it.

The big trick with kettle corn is having all your equipment ready so you can move fast once the oil heats up.

Equipment
Big saucepan or small stockpot with a lid
Big spoon
Oven mitts
Big bowl
Measuring cups

Ingredients
About 1/3 c. popcorn (use Orville Redenbacher, not the cheap stuff)
About 1/4 c. sugar
Enough canola or peanut oil to coat the bottom of the pan about 1/8″ deep
Salt

Step 1: Pre-measure the popcorn and sugar and set them next to the stove, along with the spoon and the big bowl.

Step 2: Pull the battery out of your smoke alarm and turn on the exhaust fan above your stove, because you’ll probably screw up and burn this the first couple of times you do it. It gets easier with practice.

Step 3: Put on the oven mitts. No matter how well your lid fits, oil and steam can escape around the edges and scald you.

Step 4: Cover the bottom of the pan with oil, throw in three kernels of popcorn, and heat on high until they all pop.

Step 5: Dump in popcorn and sugar — in that order — stir quickly, and cover. Remove from heat and shake vigorously every three seconds, holding the lid onto the pan as tightly as possible.

Step 6: Once corn pops (about five minutes or less), dump it into a large bowl, sprinkle lightly with salt, and enjoy.

If you let it cool down completely and then store it in a sealed container, it will stay fresh and crispy for several days.

Emily

P.S.: The little strings on the popcorn in the picture aren’t hair. They’re strands of melted sugar. The sugar melts into the oil, coats the popcorn, and basically turns into candy as it cools.

Vegetarian Friday: Vegetable stock

Remember a few weeks ago, when I told you to start saving vegetable scraps in a freezer container? It’s time to get out that container and reap the rewards.

This won’t be the prettiest thing we ever make, but vegetable stock is the basis for so many winter recipes, it only makes sense to prepare a batch now and keep it on hand as we head toward soup season.

You can buy vegetable broth at the store, but it’s usually outrageously expensive, comes in packaging that’s difficult to recycle, and often includes a lot of excess salt and preservatives. Vegetable bouillon is cheaper and involves less packaging, but the sodium content is through the roof, and many brands are made with monosodium glutamate or other chemicals that trigger problems for people with certain food sensitivities.

Our DIY version is free, tastes better, uses little to no packaging, and takes less than 10 minutes of actual work to prepare.

Ingredients

At least 2 c. vegetable scraps
Water

That’s all you need. The scraps can be mushroom stems, celery trimmings, onion peels, herb stems, baby carrots left over from a veggie tray, bell-pepper cores, or just about anything else you have on hand. Every time you cook, instead of tossing these leftovers into the compost bin, throw them in an old ice-cream tub or┬ásimilar container and keep it in the freezer.

The Crock-Pot turns vegetable scraps into broth with minimal effort.
The Crock-Pot turns vegetable scraps into broth with minimal effort.

When the container is full, take two minutes to dump it into a Crock-Pot and cover the contents with water. Turn the Crock-Pot on and let it cook at least 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low. The longer it cooks, the more concentrated the flavor will be.

Shut off the Crock-Pot and leave it alone until the broth is cool enough to handle safely.

When the stock cools, freeze it in ice-cube trays, then store the cubes in a ziplock bag.
When the stock cools, freeze it in ice-cube trays, then store the cubes in a ziplock bag.

Strain the finished broth into a large pitcher, pour into ice-cube trays, and freeze. Pop out the finished cubes and store them in a ziplock bag or other freezer-safe container to use in any recipe that calls for broth. Compost the cooked vegetable scraps.

Emily