meatless monday: fleur de sel butternut squash soup

I have my first cold of the season.  Normally, it takes longer than this to get sick.  I think I even made it until January or February last year before I had to invest in a life’s supply of kleenex.  Needless to say, I was miserable today.  Sneezy, sniffly, drowsy eyes, sneezing… yuck.  I was happy to get home and be able to have some nice, hot soup for dinner.  The only thing that would have made it better is the crock pot.

When I got home, I got to work cutting up 2 large butternut squash to start it roasting.  This step could definitely be done ahead of time to cut down on preparation on a weeknight.  The final product was so creamy and delicious, it was definitely worth the wait :).  Fleur de sel was the perfect addition to butternut squash.  It is the french sea salt that is commonly used in salted caramel flavored desserts, making it the perfect salt for a sweeter variety squash.  Per bottle, it is a bit pricy.  But I have been using the container I got at Williams Sonoma for almost two years and it was totally worth it.

Fleur de sel Butternut Squash Soup

  • 2 large butternut squash
  • 2-3 cups veggie broth, depending on thickness desired
  • 1/8t-1/4t garam masala
  • 1/8t-1/4t cumin
  • 1t fleur de sel, or more to taste
  • kale, optional
  • optional topping: pepitas
1. Preheat oven to 425′.  Cut up squash in small cubes and roast for 45 minutes to an hour.
2. Once the squash is cooked, put it into a blender (in batches if necessary) with the veggie broth.  Puree until smooth.
3. Once the squash is all pureed, put into a soup pot and bring to a boil on the stovetop, adding the spices and kale.  Thin, if needed, with additional veggie broth.
4. Top with pepitas and additional fleur de sel.
This might be my favorite butternut squash soup.  I do love Trader Joe’s, but this one is 100x thicker.  This will definitely be made again this year!

Bring on more soup!  And more importantly, bring on the kleenex!

butternut squash pizza

Last winter I was eating so much butternut squash and pumpkin I swear I was a tad orange – it was brilliant.  I am so glad that the grocery stores have squash piling up in the bins now – no more scrounging at the bottom to pick a good one ;).  This particular squash, however, did not come from the grocery store.  We grew it in our very own garden!  It was actually picked a few weeks ago but today was finally the day to roast it and make something delicious.

Butternut squash on pizza might sound strange at first, but let’s be honest, butternut squash is delicious on almost anything.  The first time I had it on pizza was at Fire & Stone in Covent Garden in London before seeing The Lion King.  I had ‘The Melbourne‘ with mozzarella, tomato sauce, brie, sweet roasted butternut squash and balsamic red onions, topped with toasted pumpkin seeds.  Such unique pizza toppings but it could not have been more delicious.  Of course when we have a new box of Nature’s Hilights brown rice pizza crusts in the freezer and a butternut squash on the counter, I was reminded of that pizza I had over a year and a half ago – only with far less gourmet toppings, and both gluten free and vegan.

Butternut Squash Pizza

  • 1 butternut squash
  • nature’s hilights brown rice pizza crust
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • daiya mozzarella style shreds
  • basil
1. Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cube into pieces.
2. Roast in a 400′ oven for 40 minutes, or until squash is cooked through.
3. Prep the pizza crust according to directions.  Pre-bake if necessary.
4. Top the crust with oil, roasted butternut squash, daiya and basil.
5. Bake for 10 minutes until the daiya is melted.

Serve with the leftover roasted butternut squash ;).

meatless monday: chickpea cider stew

I have said it before, but I will say it again, Fall is my favorite season.  The weather is perfect and the flavors are the best.  Apples and pumpkin are definitely high on my list of favorite flavors and they both make an appearance throughout my eats the entire year.  You know what they say, “An apple a day…”.  One thing that I don’t quite have the appetite for in summer is thick soups and stews.  It’s just not the same eating it in the air conditioning than it is when you’re eating it to help stay warm ;).

Well, today is an air-conditioning type day, but last week fall was upon us and my craving for all things apple came on full force!  Luckily we made a trip to a local apple orchard this weekend to stock up and we have our first bushel of apples in the kitchen.  Since it’s Meatless Monday, I thought (well, this was actually Kinley’s idea but I made it haha) that having apples as the center of a meal would be delicious.  In the past, we’ve made a crockpot stew featuring meat, but chickpeas became the star of the show tonight and they were incredible.

Chickpea Cider Stew

  • 1 1/2 c dry chickpeas, rinsed and picked through in case of small stones
  • 2 apples, cored and chopped
  • 6-8 yukon gold potatoes, chunked into large pieces
  • 5-6 whole carrots, sliced
  • 2t salt
  • 3 c apple cider
  • 2 c vegetable broth
1. In a large crockpot, layer all ingredients from top-down.  I left the peels on everything and you would never notice.
2. Place crockpot on low for 8-10 hours, or until chickpeas are tender.

The chickpeas cook in the cider and soak up the delicious, sweet flavor.  The apples completely cook down so just their flavor is left and the potatoes and carrots are perfectly tender.  It was nice to start off with dry chickpeas (read: no prep) and end up with a deliciously cooked and flavored meal!  I was worried before I left that it was going to end up boiling over since it was so full – I even drove home at lunchtime to take a peek!  Luckily, it was for nothing (well, I got to see Croz for a couple minutes 😉 ).  The stew didn’t cook over, the chickpeas just displaced some of the liquid.  It was a perfect weeknight meal!  Extremely easy prep in the morning as well – you can even have everything chopped up and ready to throw together in the morning!   (Just be sure to NOT soak the beans in anything overnight – the cooking process is enough to rehydrate the dry beans).

meatless monday fiesta

I like simple things.  I especially like simple things that are really, really good.  You know what else I like?  Creating a whole meal out of things you (could) have on hand any day.  I also like gardens.  Surprisingly, our garden had not given up just yet.  A few things have had to be “removed” due to their size and productivity level.  The heirloom tomato plant looks pathetic… and yet we’re still getting tomatoes.  Lots and lots of heirloom tomatoes that have been made into delicious pasta sauce, put into weekly salads, and made into delicious and fresh salsa.  Actually that last one is a lie… or it actually hasn’t happened yet (but it will).  The tomatoes I used in this particular dish came from a co-workers garden as did the peppers.  So absolutely incredibly fresh and delicious it had to be made into a meal.  So here, for your Meatless Monday, you get two recipes.  Salsa + a base.

Simple Salsa

  • tomatoes
  • jalapeno peppers
  • salt
Cut up tomatoes and jalapeno peppers and toss in a bowl with salt.  I cut off the tips of the jalapenos and took out the seeds and the salsa ended up bring pretty mild, but delicious.  I also do not have measurements because I used what was left!
Tostadas
  • brown rice tortilla (or a corn tortilla)
  • refried beans
  • cumin, to taste
  • lettuce
  • salsa
1. Preheat the oven to 400′.
2. Put a tortilla on a baking sheet and pile on the beans and cumin.  You could also have some cheese if you’d like.
3. Bake for 10ish minutes until the tortilla is crispy and the beans are hot.
4. Top with whatever toppings you’d like!  I was pretty simple because we didn’t have a whole lot to put on top, but it was sooo good.  We’ve always had these as tacos where the tortilla was a shell, but it always ended up breaking apart.  This way there was no breakage until I purposefully dug into eat ;).

And if you’ve already eaten dinner tonight?  Taco Tuesdays sound pretty fantastic as well…

Yay for one of the toughest days of the week being over!  Only 4 more days til the weekend :).

falling for meatless monday

In my mind, August is always unbearably hot and so humid you can almost see the water in the air.  Something is definitely different this year.  The mornings and the evenings are cool and crisp, making it seem more like fall than mid-summer.  I even had to forego my Tae-Bo dvd this morning for a walk outside to enjoy the outdoors!  Naturally, my fall taste buds have kicked into high gear.  Good thing we always keep a supply of pumpkin in our pantry!

Kinley actually came up with this recipe – we didn’t even know what we were going to make until tonight and we had all the ingredients to pull this together.  Easy peasy.  Pumpkin in the sauce and pepitas on top.

Gluten Free Chickpea and Pumpkin Pasta

  • 1 can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling, just pure pumpkin)
  • 1 c water
  • 1/2 c vegetable broth
  • 1 1/4t italian seasoning
  • 1t onion powder
  • 1t garlic powder
  • 1t sucanat or organic sugar
  • 1/8t nutmeg
  • 1/4t cinnamon
  • 1/4t cumin
  • salt, to taste
  • red pepper flakes, optional
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 8oz brown rice pasta
1. Mix together all of the ingredients except for the chickpeas and the pasta.
2. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, adding the chickpeas for the last few minutes.
3. Boil water and cook pasta according to directions.  Drain and rinse with hot water (helps the gluten free pasta not stick together.
4. Put the pasta back into the pot and add the sauce.  Stir to combine and heat through.
So simple.  So delicious.
I know Fall will be here before I know it and in some ways I’m excited.  Apple orchards, pumpkin fields, beautiful fall colors, and of course my birthday.  But Fall, I’m not quite ready for you yet.  Give me a few more weeks of summer, please.

latin monday

Can you believe it’s yet another Meatless Monday?!  This was the first real ‘weekend‘ after starting my new job so it was even more enjoyable – and even more depressing that it was Monday!  Although knowing there was a delicious dinner in store for tonight helped – except not when I found myself snack-less and hungry this afternoon!  We had a latin-inspired dish tonight that was taken from an idea in Appetite for Reduction, an awesome vegan cookbook.  Changes were made, per usual, and it was delectable.

Latin Lentils

  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 2 small (or one large from the garden!) cut into 1/4″ cubes
  • 8 kalamata olives
  • chili powder & cumin, to taste
  • 1/2T lime juice
  • 1/4c salsa verde
  • salt, to taste
  • brown rice tortillas (or your favorite tortilla/wrap)

1. Cook lentils either on the stovetop or in a rice cooker.

2. Saute zucchini in a little olive oil (or on a nonstick pan) over medium-high heat.

3. Add the remaining ingredients and cook until heated through.

Serve on tortillas (like tacos) or serve with tortilla wedges for dipping!

You could add anything else you’d like on top as well – such as tomatoes, lettuce, more salsa… pretty much anything you’d put on a taco you can put on here.  So good.  I loved the bites with the olives ;).  Such a delicious dinner after a hectic Monday!

easy vegan pizza toppings

What’s better than an easy to throw together pizza for dinner on my first day of work?  Nothing that I can think of anyways.  I think I’ll put together a post of my favorite things at work so far tomorrow, but I want to keep tonight’s post relatively nice + simple.  And oh hey, it’s Monday so it’s time for another Meatless Monday idea!  Remember my Veggie Fried Rice or my Meatless Monday on the Grill?  Well, it’s just gotten a whole lot simpler!

Without having gluten in my diet, pizza is one thing that I have missed, especially for busy days where all I feel like is ordering up a delivery pizza.  Luckily, I found Sami’s Bakery.  Their Millet & Flax goodies are absolutely delicious and there is a store nearby that carries a lot of their products, such as bread, bagels, wraps and PIZZA CRUST!  They come frozen so I can have them on hand at any time.  Now, it’s not exactly like regular pizza crust, but it’s not extremely thin either, which I think a lot of gluten free crusts end up being.  And I am not a thin-crust kind of girl, I much prefer the hand-tossed variety.  Well, no matter what crust you end up getting you can still make a delicious vegetarian (and even vegan!) pizza on a busy meatless Monday in your home!  (Or even as a late-night pizza snack if that’s what you’re up for.)

BBQ Chick’n Pizza

1. Prepare your crust accordingly.

2. Drain the chickpeas and toss in some bbq sauce.  Also spread some extra bbq sauce on the crust itself.

3. Top the pizza with the chickpeas + bbq sauce and the rest of your toppings.  Why the random toppings on this pizza?  Well our garden is just flourishing!

4. Feel free to top with any cheese or non-dairy cheese, or even just some nutritional yeast.  I ate it as-is and it was extremely delicious!

5. Bake according to your crust directions until done (pretty exact, I know 😉 ).

Other topping options?

  • pizza sauce (Trader Joe’s)
  • peppers
  • onions
  • tomatoes
  • spinach
  • olives
  • mushrooms
  • tofu
  • tempeh
  • fried eggs (no, I am not kidding)

You can really have fun with this meal, especially if you have friends or kids around.  Just have a handful of toppings and sauces available for them to be able to choose their own combination!

No matter what topping you decide to go with, it will be delicious and such a nice option for any meatless weeknight meal!

meatless monday on the grill

Around three weeks ago now, I shared with you an easy peasy meatless monday meal with the thought that I would attempt to do a dinner every Monday that highlighted something easy, meat-free and delicious so you can celebrate Meatless Monday as well!  Well, three weeks passed and I never gave a second thought to it – whoops.  Obviously there was the 4th of July that was distracting and who knows what was happening last Monday haha (actually it was the day after Kinley’s 1/2 so I think our minds were both somewhere else!).  Thanks to Kinley for remembering my original plan, I am back at it this Monday!  Well, I should say she is back at it since she made dinner last night after a quick bike ride to the grocery store to pick up a few items.

The best part about this meal?  It only requires a handful of ingredients that are easy to have on hand for any quick weeknight meal.  And not only a few ingredients, but CHEAP ingredients!

Grilled Baked Bean Potatoes

  • baked potatoes
  • vegetarian baked beans
  • nutritional yeast (a cheesy tasting topping found in the health food aisle – it might look scary, but it’s delicious!)
  • salad (or other vegetable)
  • any other baked potato toppings you desire

1. Preheat your grill and wrap the (washed) potatoes in aluminum foil.

2. Bake on the grill for about an hour, moving around occasionally until baked through.  Take off the grill.

3. Heat up the baked beans on the stovetop.

4. Unwrap the baked potatoes and place on a plate.  Cut a slit in the top and fill with nutritional yeast and the baked beans (or you can eat on the side if you wish).  Serve with a salad or any other side vegetable – possibly one from your garden!

You can obviously make a ton of alterations to this idea.  Different beans, vegetables, bbq sauce, ketchup, earth balance, salt, etc.

And since the grill is heated up already, you might as well put on a few Chocolate Marshmallow Stuffed Grilled Bananas for dessert.

Enjoy!

easy peasy meatless monday

Kinley is convinced she started the Meatless Monday craze.  She has been following it (almost constantly) for close to a decade – who knows where she comes up with these things?  Just recently I noticed two communities who are taking on a day without meat – whether or not it’s on a Monday it still has a positive effect on our environment (and waistline – their words, not mine)!  Aspen, Colorado is the first city in the US to adopt Meatless Monday.  Restaurants, hospitals, schools and organizations are coming together to make this happen!

Ghent, Belgium has adopted Meatless Thursdays for over the past two years – with the town council proclaiming (although not mandating) living a day without meat.

Ghent has obviously been successful in their attempt, and hopefully Aspen will follow suit.  Aspen’s initiative just started this month and I feel that the more restaurants they get on board, the more popular it will become.  I will never preach to anyone that they have to become a vegetarian, it’s not how I roll.  I certainly do not like to be told what to do so would never do that to anyone else.  I will however share amazing and meatless meals on my blog because they are delicious and it’s how I eat.  So if you’re up for trying out just one meatless meal (or day) per week, this should be on your menu ;).

Veggie Fried Rice recipe adapted from Daily Garnish

  • 1/2c – 1c dry brown rice (I only had 1/2 cup so that’s all I used, so depending on how many people you’re serving increase the amount 1/4c per person)
  • 1-2T oil, divided
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 cups frozen peas and carrots
  • 1/2 cup frozen lima beans (or edamame)
  • 2T liquid aminos (or soy sauce)
  • 1 egg
  • salt (to taste)
  • sesame seeds, optional

1. Cook the dry rice in either a rice cooker or on the stove top.  You can even do this the night before and keep in the fridge until you’re ready.

2.  Place half of the oil in the bottom of a large non-stick pan headed over medium-high heat (I used one shaped like a wok, but use anything you have!)

3. Into the pan, add the rice and cook for a few minutes to give it a ‘fried’ texture.

4. Add the carrots and frozen veggies and cook through.  It took awhile to get my carrots cooked, so if time is an issue and you don’t want crunchy carrots, pre-cook them for a few minutes.

5. Mix in the liquid aminos (or soy sauce) as well as the sesame seeds.  Create a hole in the center of the rice mixture.

6. Add the egg to the center and scramble it into the rice mixture.

7. Serve with chopsticks!

Worried about protein while eating vegetarian?  Don’t be.  The rice along with the peas creates a complete protein, and the addition of the egg increases it even more!  If you were to use edamame, that is considered a complete protein in and of itself as well.  I actually think I eat more protein now than when I used to include meat in my diet, mainly because I am more conscious of it and love experimenting with combinations of different grains and beans!