As I mentioned not too long ago, this month of blog posts is dedicated to simple recipes, meal planning, and recipes that aren’t really recipes at all: in other words, ways of throwing together ingredients for the sake of quick, tasty, nutritious meals. These slow cooker chipotle lentils are a recipe, but because they’re made in the slow cooker, they couldn’t be easier.
What you do with the lentils? That can absolutely qualify as a non-recipe recipe. I made these over a month ago (I’ve just been really slow in posting them), and once I had them, I used them in bowls, tacos, on toast, and even tossed them with pasta and some cashew cream to create a quick chili mac.
Of everything I made with the lentils (and with the leftovers, some of which I froze right away, and defrosted in the coming weeks), these quick and easy tacos were my favorite. Lentils, roasted brussels sprouts (steamed would be fine, too), and some of the hemp chimichurri sauce from Power Plates. Easy. Peasy.
I’m used to adding cabbage slaw or kale to tacos, but I may be a Brussels-sprouts-in-tacos convert! The sprouts are toothsome and hearty, which makes them a good counterpoint to the soft lentils. With that said, you could make something similar with whatever vegetables you’ve got and would like to use: I think sautéed mushrooms, roasted cauliflower, and any kind of leafy green would be lovely.
Or, if you’re not in a taco mood, the lentils work perfectly with any whole grain and green you like. I’m a big fan of the grain + green + bean planning method for super simple vegan meals, and these legumes are a perfectly spicy, flavorful component.
|Slow Cooker Chipotle Lentils||
Recipe type: side dish, main dish
Cuisine: vegan, gluten free, soy free, tree nut free, no oil option
Author: Gena Hamshaw
Serves: 8-12 servings (recipe can be halved)
- 1 tablespoon neutral vegetable oil (such as safflower or grapeseed)*
- 1 large white or yellow onion, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 28-ounce can fire-roasted, diced tomatoes
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 4 cups water or low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 lb brown or green lentils, picked over and rinsed
- 3 tablespoons chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped (use 2 tablespoons if you prefer less spicy food)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ¾ teaspoon salt, more as needed
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup or agave syrup (or brown sugar)
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- For most depth of flavor, begin by heating the oil in a roomy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and celery. Sauté, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes, or until the onions are gently browning. Add the garlic and sauteé for one minute more. Add this mixture to the slow cooker (or a multi-cooker with a slow cooking function), then add all of the remaining ingredients.
- Alternately, add everything but the oil to the slow cooker. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 7-8 hours. If the lentils are too thick, add extra water to thin them to your liking (I like them to be thick, rather than soupy). Taste and adjust vinegar and salt to taste. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 6 weeks.
I have a 7 quart slow cooker, so this recipe, like all of my recipes, makes a ton of food. If you have a 2 or 4 quart slow cooker or multi-cooker, feel free to cut the recipe in half! Or put your freezer to good use 😉
Life around here is slow and steady this week. I’m still recovering from a cold, but I’m in a nice place of taking good, mindful, restful care of my body. Sniffles and sleepiness aside, it feels good to move slowly, tune in, and allow myself to truly savor and inhabit the time off. I’ve got some tasty things planned for next week, including a tasty no-recipe pasta recipe, and a nutritious snack cookie that I can’t get enough of these days.
Sending you all love and warmth this week.
Easy Vegan Sausage Mushroom Marinara Pasta
Sending you into the weekend with one of those meal starter ideas that I keep mentioning this month. This easy vegan sausage mushroom marinara pasta isn’t a recipe (and I’m not sure that this share even constitutes a proper blog post!), but it’s one of the re-heatable dinners I’ve made most often for sustenance and comfort food during my DI. On the chance that one of you might come to enjoy it as much as I do, it’s worth writing down the process.
This meal definitely gets filed in the “semi-homemade” category. Within that, you’re encouraged to use any of the store-bought staples you like: your favorite marinara, your favorite vegan sausage (or you could use crumbled and sautéed tempeh, or cooked lentils), your pasta of choice (I used regular; go ahead and use gluten-free, bean pasta, whole grain—whatever suits you), and your favorite pasta topper. For me, that’s this walnut herb parm.
By the time the dish comes together, it’s filling, rich in plant-protein, packed with vegetables for nutritional heft, and—I think—pretty tasty for all of its simplicity. Here’s how I make it.
|Easy Vegan Sausage Mushroom Marinara Pasta||
Recipe type: main dish
Cuisine: vegan, gluten free option, soy free, no oil option, tree nut free option
Author: Gena Hamshaw
- 8 ounces pasta of choice
- 2 teaspoons olive oil (or a few tablespoons vegetable broth)
- 10 ounces sliced mushrooms (you can use button, portobello, or cremini)
- 2 vegan sausages of choice (I used Field Roast Italian style), sliced, or 1½ cups vegan beef-style crumbles, tempeh crumbles, or cooked lentils
- 1 lb bite-sized broccoli florets (or a 1 lb bag of frozen broccoli florets, defrosted according to instructions, which is what I used)
- 1 25-ounce jar marinara of choice
- Vegan parmesan, for topping
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions.
- While the pasta boils, heat the oil or broth in a large, roomy, deep skillet. Add the mushrooms and sausage slices. Cook, stirring often, for 7-10 minutes, or until the mushrooms have released their juices and are completely tender. Add the broccoli (if fresh) to the skillet, cover, and allow it to steam cook for 3-4 minutes, or until crisp-tender. If using defrosted, add the broccoli to the skillet and heat through.
- Add the marinara sauce and pasta to the skillet. Mix everything and heat through. Divide into 4-5 portions and top with vegan parmesan of choice.
This may well be a lot less inspiring than many of you need, in which case don’t worry: I have another easy recipe planned for next week, but it’s a little more original than this one!
As I said, for those of you who might love this combination but not necessarily think to throw it together, I hope it’s a winning weeknight supper. Thanks for letting me share a low-key favorite with you.
And I’ll be back soon, for weekend reading.
Caribbean Black Eyed Pea & Collard Green Curry
Happy new year, everyone! Hoping that 2019 has gotten off to a gentle start for you all.
As the Eve approached–right after sharing these thoughts about resilience–I found myself feeling a little tender. No amount of resistance to NYE hype stops me from feeling lonely for companionship at this time of year. I started to wonder if maybe my buoyant words had been a stretch.
Then I woke up yesterday, on an unusually warm and winter morning in NYC. I felt keenly aware of how lucky I was to be in the city, facing a new day and even a whole new year. I watched the sunrise–it looked like someone had painted a watercolor outside my window–and took time to reflect on all of the good stuff: family, friendship, connection, words, food. I thought back to some wise words that a close friend had offered me about patience the night before, and to a particularly sweet text exchange I’d had with Ashley. Everything seemed different than it had the night before, which isn’t to say that both set of feelings weren’t equally OK, or equally true. It felt like resilience in action.
This morning, I got a hilarious comment on my last weekend reading post from a friend and reader who mentioned having a “mini meltdown” over “cornbread technical difficulties.” I laughed so hard that I nearly spit out my coffee, thinking back to the many times when cooking glitches have sent me into panic mode. It was such a good reminder that resilience and flexibility are things that many of us have to practice–and that we’re all in it together.
Anyway, moving to the topic of food, this is a recipe that I made over the weekend, so that I’d have it for Jan 1 and beyond (since collards and black-eyed peas are traditional good luck food for a new year, at least in the American South). I wanted to treat the ingredients a little differently this year, so I settled on the idea of a curry. It’s a Caribbean inspired curry, which I made with Jamaican curry powder (any curry powder you have is just fine), coconut milk, coriander, and a touch of cinnamon and allspice.
The dish is perfect served over rice, which is how I’ve been eating it, but like most stew-like food, you could scoop it over any favorite grain, or even serve it over a baked potato (or sweet potato) or with some sort of flatbread. It’s flavorful, easy to make more or less hot depending on the type of peppers you used (I used jalapeno) and whether you’d like to add a pinch of cayenne. And it’s a one pot dish that freezes well, which, when I recently did an IG poll to see what type of recipe people wanted more of in the new year, was the clear winner. That’s good news for me, as it’s the type of meal I need most when the DI hours are in full swing!
Here it is.
|Caribbean Black Eyed Pea and Collard Green Curry||
Recipe type: main dish
Cuisine: gluten free, tree nut free, soy free, no oil option
Author: Gena Hamshaw
- 2 teaspoons neutral vegetable oil (such as safflower or grapeseed)*
- 1 large white or yellow onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped (you can use serrano instead, for more heat)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon Jamaican curry (or whatever curry powder you have)
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- 3 cups cooked black-eyed peas (2 cans, drained and rinsed)
- 1 14.5-ounce can regular or fire roasted, diced tomatoes (substitute 1 large, fresh tomato, chopped)
- 1 russet potato, peeled and chopped (about 6-7 ounces)
- 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth or water
- ½-3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- Pinch of ground cayenne pepper, if desired
- 1 bunch collard greens, stems removed and sliced into ribbons
- 1 cup full-fat, canned coconut milk or cashew cream
- Fresh lime juice, to taste
- Rice, millet, quinoa, or another favorite grain, for serving
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and peppers. Saute, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes, or until the onions are soft and clear. Add the garlic, curry, coriander, cinnamon, allspice, and a few tablespoons water. Cook, stirring frequently, for another 1-2 minutes, or until the garlic and spices are very fragrant.
- Add the black-eyed peas, tomatoes, potato, and broth or water to the pot, along with salt to taste (I used ¾ teaspoon) and cayenne if you’d like. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add the coconut milk and collards to the pot. Stir everything well, then re-cover and simmer for another 10 minutes. Taste, add lime juice as desired, and serve over rice or your favorite grain!
*Substitute a few tablespoons vegetable broth for a no oil version.
It’s been so nice to start 2019 with this flavorful meal (a few servings of which are already in the freezer, where they’ll keep for up to six weeks). I haven’t been putting much pressure on myself to cook since my hospital rotation wrapped up, but–maybe unsurprisingly–I’ve been aching to be in the kitchen, especially since I have more time and more space in which to dream up recipe ideas. Hoping I’ll be able to revisit some favorites from Power Plates in the next few weeks, along with other, new meals.
Wishing you a wonderful first week of the year, friends. Till Sunday.
Easy Cheesy Vegan Loaded Potatoes with Broccoli & White Beans
As many of you know, I’m not one for New Year’s goal-setting or themes or programs, or even resolutions. I know that they can all be motivating and inspiring and great, depending on the context. But I spend enough time vying with unrealistic expectations from day to day; I like to enter a new year gently, and in some ways it takes more for me to accept things as they are than to contemplate what I’ll be changing.
All of that said, I don’t like to discourage the positive energy that can emerge at this time of year, especially when it takes the form of folks resolving to take good care of themselves, whatever that means. I’m a big fan of Veganuary, which inspires a lot of people to give veganism a dedicated try. And here on the blog, I do sometimes give fresh thought to new content, ideas, initiatives.
This year, in the spirit of that gentle entrance I just mentioned, it feels appropriate to use the first few weeks of the month (which I have off from the DI!) to reflect on some of the strategies that allowed me to make it through my 15 weeks of clinicals fed entirely by home-cooked meals. Until September, I’d been working from home, which gave me the good fortune to cook often and when I liked. I wasn’t really sure that I’d be able to sustain a meal plan once the DI started, but—for economic reasons as much as the fact that I like to cook/eat homemade food—I’m glad I did.
Cooking my way through my first two rotations often meant knowing when not to cook (i.e., rely on some of my go-to vegan store-bought products). Sometimes it meant throwing together meals in 20-minutes or less, which has never entirely been my cooking style, mostly because I haven’t needed it to be. And sometimes it meant cooking and meal prepping when I could have been doing other, fun things. It was all a balancing act, a question of knowing when to cut corners and when not to.
Between now and mid-January, I’ll be sharing some of the practically-not-recipe-recipes that I relied on when the going got tough, meals so simple that I’d normally not consider them as contenders for the blog. They’ll be a little basic, but they’ll also be an honest reflection of how/what I’ve been eating.
I’ll also be doing a big post on my batch cooking/meal prep process, since I get so many questions about it on Instagram! I’ll talk about how I plan, store, freeze/defrost, balance the things I choose to make each week. If you have any particular questions about my weekly process, please feel free to comment or email or DM me on the ‘gram—I’d love to address the topics that people want to hear about.
For today, here’s one of those quickie meals I mentioned. If you batch cook the baked potatoes over a weekend and make the cheese sauce at that time, it’s a 5-minute dinner. Even if you prepare it all at once, it demands only about 15 minutes of active work (the rest of the time is spent waiting for the potatoes to bake, and you could absolutely microwave them if you wanted to—I often do).
I’ve made a lot of vegan cheese sauces and mac n’ cheese sauces in my day. I’d venture to say that this is my all-time favorite: the most cheesy, the most creamy while also being relatively low in fat and not overly rich (I’ve made some very cashew-heavy sauces—this one’s got potato to help balance things out). It’s based on the sauce for my carrot mac, with some adaptations.
Since I bake potatoes for the recipe anyway, I use one of them for the sauce. I do think that red peppers add a special combination of tartness and sweetness that enhances the sauce, and I always have a jar of roasted red peppers in my pantry. But you can substitute a handful of steamed carrots or cauliflower or zucchini, too—you’d be surprised at how adaptable the sauce is.
To make the dish, you start by baking the potatoes. You split them, mash the flesh lightly with some non-dairy milk (or Earth Balance, or broth, or vegan parm), and top them with white beans (or chickpeas, or navy beans) and broccoli florets (or brussels sprouts, or green beans, or kale, or whatever you’ve got). The cheese sauce gets piled on top.
That’s it. This is the very definition of a “throw together” meal, but it’s hearty and tasty and good, and in spite of how little it takes to make it, it’s got plenty of nutrient density. It works well with sweet potatoes and Japanese potatoes, too. Here’s the recipe—perhaps you’ll tuck it away for a day when you need something real comforting, real fast.
|Easy, Cheesy Vegan Loaded Potato with Broccoli & White Beans||
Recipe type: main dish, quick & easy
Cuisine: gluten free, soy free, tree nut free option, no oil
Author: Gena Hamshaw
Serves: 3-4 servings
For the vegan cheese sauce:
- 1 cup (about 5 ounces) cooked white potato (or sweet potato) flesh
- 2 roasted red bell peppers from the jar, drained, or 1 fresh red bell pepper (substitute a heaping half cup of steamed cauliflower or carrots)
- ¼ cup (1 ounce) raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours and then drained (substitute ¼ cup silken tofu)
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon mellow white miso
- ¼-1/2 teaspoon fine salt (to taste)
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
- ½ teaspoon dry mustard (or 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard)
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ¾ cup + 2 T water
- 2 large russet potatoes, scrubbed and pricked over with a fork
- A few tablespoons non-dairy milk, broth, or a little Earth Balance/vegan butter
- Vegan parmesan (optional)
- 1½ cups (1 can) cannellini or navy beans, rinsed and drained
- 3 cups broccoli florets, fresh or frozen, cooked according to preference (you can steam, microwave, or boil), or another green vegetable
- To make the sauce, blend all ingredients together in a powerful blender till completely smooth and creamy (1-2 minutes).
- To make the meal, preheat the oven to 400F. Place the potatoes on a lined baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour, or until fork tender.
- When the potatoes are ready, split them. Use a fork to mash the interior of each half gently, using a tablespoon or so of non-dairy milk, vegetable broth, or a little pat of vegan butter to make the potato a little creamy. You can add some vegan parmesan now for extra flavor, if you like.
- Add ¼ cup white beans to each half and mash them gently into the potato with your fork. Pile about ¾ cup cooked broccoli florets on top. Pour the cheese sauce on top (about ¼ cup, or to taste). Serve.
The cheesy sauce will keep for up to 5 days in an airtight container in the fridge and can be frozen for up to 6 weeks. It yields 2 cups.
If your potatoes are generously sized, each half is a decent meal on its own. If you have small potatoes, you can use a whole potato for each portion. I had this very meal for lunch today, seeking something easy because I’ve definitely got a cold. It was so good, and I added Brussels sprouts this time! The cheese sauce will yield a full 2 cups, so once you’ve made it, you can use it throughout the week on vegan mac n’ cheese, on top of grains, in quesadillas or tacos or burritos, or whatever.
Wishing you all an easy end to this inter-holiday week. Look forward to a lot more low-stress recipes in January, and I’ll be back this weekend with some recipes and reads.
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