Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Easy Weeknight Lentil Stew

October 1st, 2018

It's finally fall, and I just cannot get enough of these crisp, beautifully warm days that fade gently into sweatshirt weather in the evenings. On days like this, I want to come home and fill myself up with something warm, hearty, and delicious, and this particular version of whatever-we-got-from-the-market lentil stew was easily one of the most delicious I've ever made, even if it wasn't the most beautiful. 

I like to cook more by whole ingredients than to a recipe, and this easy, seasonal lentil stew is a perfect example of mix-and-match cooking at its best. What you're seeing here is actually a bowl of leftover stew I had for lunch several days later, because I completely forgot to photograph the original! Not that it mattered, it's even better warmed up than it was right out of the pot because the flavors have more time to meld in the refrigerator. Bonus? It made plenty of leftovers, so we have easy lunches ready to go for busy work days. 

Though you'll definitely find me taking on more complex recipes now and then, most of the time I'm all about the one pot meal: chop everything once, throw it in, and then clean up while it cooks. After dinner you only have one pot to deal with, and then you're done! As busy professionals who love to eat AND side hustle, we're not trying to spend all of our precious time in the evenings cleaning up the kitchen after an epic gourmet meal. Save that for date night! 

All you need for this epic-but-easy one-pot stunner are some good fresh ingredients, the right mix of spices, and some solid pantry stand-bys. The best part? You never have to make it the same way twice -- mix it up with whatever YOU have on hand right now. 

Here's what I used:

For the protein base...

1 c red lentils, rinsed
1 c hard red winter wheat berries, rinsed
6 cups of water (2 for the lentils, 2 for the wheat berries, 2 for the pot. You could add more if you want, but this will make it thicker like a stew)

For the vegetables...

1 red onion
4 large cloves of garlic
1 japanese sweet potato
1 c oyster mushrooms
1 red pepper
1/2 bunch turnip greens, chopped
1/2 bunch lacinato kale, chopped

For the spice...

1 tsp mustard seed
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper (~1/4 tsp each for me)

  1. Chop up your onions and garlic first. In a large soup pot, melt some coconut oil (or oil of your choice) and start sauteing your onions and garlic over medium heat.
  2. While these are going, chop your sweet potato and throw it in as soon as it's ready. Smaller chunks = shorter cook time. 
  3. Add the spices, and give it a good stir to make sure everything is coated. 
  4. Add everything else but the greens, bring to a boil, and then cover and turn down to a simmer for about 20 minutes or until the lentils and wheat berries/grains are soft. As long as you kept your sweet potatoes small, they should be done at this point too -- check. 
  5. Once all the hard stuff is soft, add your chopped greens. I like to just throw these on top and cover the pot to steam them for a few minutes before I stir them in to keep the greens green, after which I turn off the heat and serve. You could also go ahead and stir them in and let it all cook together to better incorporate the flavors, but the tradeoff is they lose their color. Up to you! 
  6. At this point, its ready to serve! You could keep simmering (again, longer simmer = more flavor), but if you're like me and you just want to eat it already, go for it. I like to drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and this time I also sprinkled on a bit of this vegan almond parmesan I made the other day (check out The Simple Veganista for more awesome vegan recipes!) SO GOOD. 
If you try this yourself or come up with your own variation, I'd love to see it! Tag on Instagram and let me know what you come up with! 

For the love of plants,
The AK

Monday, September 10, 2018

Weekend Brunch! Vegan, Gluten-Free Buckwheat Pancakes

Vegan, Gluten-Free Buckwheat Pancakes

With a super rainy weekend keeping us indoors and brunch-less, Chris and I went a little crazy in the kitchen on Sunday. I really wanted pancakes, but I've recently decided to try eating gluten free for a few weeks to see how it makes me feel (so far, WAY better, more on that in a future post). I decided to adapt some pancake recipes to use buckwheat flour and make them totally gluten free. I also used our cast iron skillet without oil, and they didn't stick at all! 

These pancakes are:
- Vegan
- Gluten free
- Refined sugar free
- oil free
- high in protein
- super healthy so you can eat the whole batch!

Here's how to make them:


1 Tbsp Ground flax seed
2-1/2 Tbsp Water
1-1/4 cup Oat milk
1 Tbsp Apple cider vinegar
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1 cup Whole buckwheat groats, ground in a blender to make flour
1/4 cup Hemp hearts
1 Tbsp Baking Powder
1/8 tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Maple syrup

For serving:

sliced fruit (peaches, nectarines, blueberries, bananas, etc)
hemp hearts or nuts
cacao nibs
plain plant-based yogurt such as Forager Project Cashew Yogurt 


1. Prepare your flax egg by mixing together the flax seed and water, set aside to gel for 5 minutes.
2. Prepare your buckwheat flour by putting whole groats in a high-speed blender (we have a Blendtec) to make whole-grain flour. If you make more than you need at once, you can store the ground flour in the freezer.
3. Mix up all your liquid ingredients together: oat milk, apple cider vinegar, vanilla extract, maple syrup.
4. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl: buckwheat flour, hemp hearts, baking powder, and salt.
5. Stir your wet ingredients into the dry until just mixed.
6. Heat a non-stick pan or seasoned cast iron skillet to just under medium heat. Measure 1/4 cup of batter per pancake, cook for 2-3 minutes per side or until bubbles in mix burst and edges begin to lift. 

Makes 8 pancakes, 4 per serving. Stack 'em up, layer on your fruit, yogurt, and toppings of choice. Enjoy! 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Plant-Based Pizza: Forget the Cheese, You Won't Even Miss It

Homemade vegan pizza

Plant-Based Pizza With Cashew Alfredo

There are few things that have caused more hesitation in the journey to a fully plant-based diet for me and my husband than our desire to eat a real pizza with real mozzarella cheese. I'm not talking about the shredded stuff they layer on in centimeter-thick piles, I'm talking about the good stuff: the melty circles of real homemade mozz, the kind that makes you reminisce about your study abroad in Italy back in the day. Yeah, I said it -- it's not easy being vegan. As much as I believe in it with all my heart -- for the animals we need to stop exploiting, for the environment we need to stop polluting, and for our health -- there are times when we just really want that cheese. Cheese on pizza, it's basically one of the fundamental bastions of my childhood (and probably for most of you reading this) and there's so much joy and nostalgia and feel-good cheese chemicals that just can't be replaced with anything else. So yeah, sometimes we cheat. But I'm not hear to tempt you into running out and ordering up a good Margherita, I just want to acknowledge that this vegan thing is a journey, and every meal is another opportunity to take a step in your chosen direction. 

So now that I've got you craving pizza, let me tell you about this awesome plant-based pizza we made the other night on a homemade sourdough crust. It was a thing of beauty. This pie didn't even need cheese, it rewrote the book entirely.  The key to a good cheeseless pizza is to make sure you've got all the components, and then max out the flavor on everything. Here's what you need:

  • A crust you love. Light, crispy, but soft. All the flavor you can get.
  • Something saucy. Nobody needs a dry pizza. This can be tomato-based, creamy, pesto-y, hummus-y, etc. This is your flavor base.
  • Something green. Maybe it's the visual contrast with red sauce, or maybe it's just the freshness, but I love a good green pepper, kale, arugula, or basil topping -- anything green will do.
  • Something substantial. You're looking for something to bite into here, something that's going to make you feel full. It could be mushrooms, tofu, tempeh, squash, etc. You don't want to feel like something's missing.
  • Something sweet. A touch of sweetness creates an awesome flavor complement to the sauce and the crust. I like to use sweet potato, winter squash, or raw corn off the cob here, but any sweet vegetable will do.

For this pizza, I used my sourdough starter to make the crust and fed it about four hours before I wanted to make the pizza (but you could easily feed it in the morning before going to work). For this recipe, you only have to let the dough rest for 30 minutes once you mix it, so as long as you've got your starter ready it's a super quick recipe. If you don't have sourdough starter, you can just use your favorite dough recipe here. I've experimented with baking deep dish in a cast iron skillet as well as baking straight on a pizza stone, both with excellent results. I've even made rectangular pizzas in roasting pans, so just use whatever tools you've got. 

Plant based pizza with cashew alfredo

For the toppings, we went for a white pizza and started with a cashew alfredo sauce from the Minimalist Baker that we had made for a pasta dinner earlier in the week. Super creamy, super delicious, definitely saucy, and it even browned a little on the edges in the oven. 

For something green, I softened some dinosaur kale using a technique known as "massaging," which really just means that you are breaking down the tough fibers and releasing the juices. It has a similar wilting effect to giving it a quick saute, but without the cooking and extra dishes. Again, the Minimalist Baker has a method for this on one of her fabulous kale salad recipes. To simplify, you can just mix up 1 Tbsp olive oil and the juice of half a lemon and use that to massage the kale. The oil and acid will do the trick. 

We knew we wanted to use up some portabellos we had from the week before, and these were really the star of the show. Before slicing them for the pizza, we marinated them for about half an hour while we prepped everything else and then seared them in the cast iron skillet. I will once again refer you to the Minimalist Baker for the most flavorful portabellos you ever tasted, but I'm sure there are other good ones out there (what can I say, her recipes are amazing.

And finally -- something sweet. It's late summer in Philly, so we decided to use up the last of our summer corn and topped it all off with raw kernels straight off the cob. They were the perfect complement of mildly sweet and a touch crunchy, and they went wonderfully with the kale and portabellos. 

Ten minutes in the oven and we were enjoying our very own handiwork of a homemade, plant-based, Friday night pizza. Shoutout to Ploughman Cider, the Bluebird Day Apple Peach Wine was incredible and exactly what this pizza needed. 

What's your favorite homemade pizza crust recipe? What vegan sauces and toppings do you use? What are your hardest challenges with sticking to a plant-based diet? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Vegan Lasagna... for Omnivores?

I've been meaning to write this post for a couple of weeks now, but with the house renovation still going on and getting more complicated by the day, it's been hard to find the time.  I'm stealing a few minutes now as I wait for a batch of Sunday breakfast muffins to come out of the oven (I whipped up another variation of the Gluten Free Banana Nut Muffins I posted after the New Year), and I want to share with you a topic I find myself considering often these days: what on earth do you cook for an omnivore? I'm not talking about a flexible, Meatless-Monday's type of omnivore, I'm talking about the Steak-It's-What's-For-Dinner type of omnivore. And for lunch, and for breakfast. People like my Dad, my brother, pretty much my entire clan of relatives, and many of our friends. 

On this particular Saturday evening a few weeks ago, we had invited two new friends over for dinner. We hadn't really spent much time together before, but the fact that my husband and I are both vegan had come up and we offered to cook dinner for them.  Oh boy. What had seemed like a great idea at the time quickly ballooned into frenzied panic on Saturday morning -- not only was this our first date with our hopefully new Couple Friends, we had to feed them vegan food.  This was a couple whose idea of a good Valentine's dinner was to stay home and craft some Beef Wellington together. The bar was high. 

They assured us that they were excited and curious to try something a little different, but as Saturday evening approached, we began to question everything about our plan. What do you make for people whose expectation of anything with the word "vegan" in it conjures up images of salad leaves and piles of broccoli? We knew this was an opportunity to feed them otherwise, to show them how filling and delicious plant-based food can be, and to forever raise their expectations.  But what if they didn't like it? What if they found it on par with their expectations? What if they left hungry, and had to pick up a backup dinner on the way home? 

With the pressure mounting, we talked through our options. Do we go with something inherently vegan, like lentils or quinoa salad? Do we roast a big pile of vegetables from the day's trip to the farmer's market? Do we make our go-to Chickpea Masala, a vegan version of a classic Indian favorite? With all these thoughts, we shot them down just as quickly. We feared they would feel that something was missing -- The Meat. We didn't want to focus the dinner on meat replacements either, lest tastefully prepared tofu call attention to itself as an apologetic stand-in for what their taste buds really desired. 

Our goal was ultimately to just have dinner, with friends. We wanted the food to do what good food always does: to provide a warm, satisfying backdrop to the shared ritual of eating a meal and getting to know each other over hours of good wine and conversation. We weren't aiming for the food to take center stage in the discussions either, we just wanted to feed our friends and have them leave us full and happy. 

Ultimately, we settled on a familiar favorite we felt we all could relate to: lasagna, made vegan. We would dress it up with the usual accoutrements -- bread, cheese, a green salad, and copious amounts of red wine -- and everyone would feel right at home. 

We had recently discovered some amazing, cultured cashew milk cheese from Treeline at our local grocery store, which is nearly indistinguishable from an herbed chevre and plays just as nicely with warm, toasted slices of baguette.  We held them over with bread and cheese as the lasagna finished cooking and I worked on the salad, plying them with what I thought were very exciting samples of various radish varieties we had found at the market that morning. Whether they found them equally exciting will soon be found out when they read this... 

Finally, the lasagna was coming out of the oven and our vegan-Italian experiment was coming to fruition. With a little help from the Simple Veganista's Cashew Ricotta and a few layers of the morning's market vegetables, we had ourselves a lasagna we could be proud of. Matt and Jess, I hope you enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed your company.  


And now, The Menu.

To start -

. sliced baguette, hot from the oven
. olive oil + pomegranate balsamic vinegar
. Treeline Treenut Cheese, Herb-Garlic flavor

The Salad -

. spring mix
. chopped fresh rainbow chard
. sunflower sprouts
. mix of market radishes: spicy Black Spanish, Watermelon, White Beauty

The Salad Dressing -

(my own lemon honey mustard dressing)

. 1/4 c olive oil
. 1 Tbsp honey or maple syrup
. 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
. 1 Tbsp spicy brown mustard
. 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
. juice from half a lemon
. cracked black pepper

The Lasagna -

(Layers are described in order from the bottom to the top, baked at 375 for 45-55 minutes, depending on how thinly you slice the sweet potatoes)

. tomato sauce on the bottom, just enough to coat the dish and keep the noodles from sticking
. first layer of noodles, cooked according to package directions
. cashew ricotta
. raw kale, chopped into small pieces
. thinly sliced rounds of sweet potatoes, placed in a single layer
. tomato sauce over the whole thing
. second layer of noodles
. more cashew ricotta
. topping layer: green peas and finely chopped sweet potatoes, crispy when baked

The Wine - 

(huge thanks to our lovely guests for bringing the wine and introducing us to a new local vineyard!)

. Unionville Vineyards, The Big O, 2013. (Red blend)
. Unionville Vineyards, Cool Foxy Lady, 2016. (Icewine style, dessert white)

If you cook vegan, what do you make for your meat-loving friends and family? If you're an omnivore, has anyone ever made you a vegan meal? I would love to hear about your own experiences with this! 

Monday, February 5, 2018

A "Super Bowl" so fast you won't miss the real one

A "Super Bowl", or what was supposed to have been a chickpea pot pie...

There are times when I enjoy really taking the time to cook. I prepare a glass of wine or sparkling water with sliced fresh limes, I turn on my favorite jazz or electroswing playlist (any Parov Stelar fans out there?), and I flip to a new recipe I've had my eye on for weeks. The ritual of preparing a meal is as relaxing to me as anything else I might do in the evening (I'm certain my husband does NOT feel this way, which is why I do most of the cooking around here ;) 

There are other times, like last night, when the goal is simply to convert whatever remaining raw ingredients we have in our refrigerator into a meal as quickly as possible, preferably with leftovers for the following days. I'm sure most of us are often in the latter boat.  

This Sunday evening in particular, we had just arrived back in town from a weekend away in New York, had not had the luxury of our usual Saturday market routine, and the Eagles were about to kickoff what would become one of the most historic Super Bowls in NFL history (that in-zone throw to Nick Foles? Amazing.) I was tackling laundry and dinner while Chris took care of our pup, and the minutes were ticking down to the coin toss.  It had to be fast enough that I could pop it into the oven and pop myself onto the couch, and it had to come together exclusively with the less-than-fresh ingredients we already had on hand leftover from last week.  What on earth to cook??

Super bowl aside, we've all been in this situation more often than we'd like to admit. To be totally honest, I had zero intention of writing a post about this one when I made it -- but then I realized that it is exactly situations like these that make we want to share what I make in the first place. The reason I write this blog is so that I can share, teach, and hopefully inspire others to feel confident in the kitchen with whatever ingredients they happen to have on hand.  How many times have you found an awesome-looking recipe only to realize that you're missing half the ingredients?  You don't have time to run to the grocery store, and takeout starts to look really tempting when your Plan A for Dinner falls through.

My goal is to show you how to think creatively with the ingredients in front of you, whether you're browsing a winter market looking for staples or browsing your refrigerator looking for anything that still might be edible. You don't have to rely on precise recipes to craft healthy, delicious, and resourceful meals for your family -- in fact, I have almost never strictly stuck to a recipe in my life (this is why I am usually NOT the baker in our family). Rather, I'm always adapting and subbing ingredients to use whatever we have, and sometimes I'll up the amount of veggies called for just to use something up, add nutrients, or make more leftovers. 

So what did I make last night for the big game? I knew it had to be quick to prepare, and it had to be something I could bake in the oven rather than prepare on the stove so I could throw it in and walk away. I checked the fridge and found the following items on hand:

  • thinly sliced sweet potato rounds I had used in a lasagna the weekend before
  • the last of the chickpeas I had cooked the weekend before
  • some very wilted spinach
  • 4 very sad carrots
  • 1 still intact parsley root (similar to celery root or parsnip)
  • the last of a carton of mixed mushrooms
If you think old vegetables are out of the question, think again. Anything that may have lost it's raw appeal can still be perfect for a stew or a bake. In this case, I decided to make a chickpea pot pie. To my raw ingredients, I added the following items from the pantry:
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic (feel free to use as much or as little garlic as you like, in any recipe. It's your dinner after all.)
  • a can of diced tomatoes
  • dried basil and thyme, and salt and pepper
  • about 3 T of spelt flour that I had remaining in the freezer (this could be any type of flour, I just happened to have the end of a bag in the freezer to use up)
  • some extra water to add moisture to the sauce
And that's it. I sauteed all my vegetables in some coconut oil while the oven preheated to 375, added the spices and water, and then added the flour to thicken it all at the end. From there, I dumped the entire pan into my pie dish and arranged the sweet potato slices around the edges and on top. I set the timer for 35 minutes, and took my seat on the couch just in time for the first touchdown. 

Fly Eagles, Fly. 

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Fit for the New Year: Vegan, Gluten Free Banana Nut Muffins

Having just returned from our annual Christmas Pilgrimage to North Carolina -- an eight-day road trip adventure all the way from Philadelphia to Clemson, SC and back again, with our game-for-anything pup in the back seat -- our pantry wasn't exactly stocked when we walked in the door on New Year's Eve.  What to make for brunch the next day? Having just spent a week trying to stick to a vegan diet in the midst of my avid meat-and-dairy-loving family, I wanted to bring something to share that would be accessible to everyone.  After a little browsing, I found this vegan, gluten-free recipe for Banana Nut Muffins from the Minimalist Baker that aligned closely enough with the limited resources in our depleted pantry.  Though not gluten-free myself, I decided to make these without it to keep them diet friendly for all. Evidently it worked out beautifully -- all twelve of these were gone in fifteen minutes flat.  Moist and hearty, with the added decadence of dark chocolate chips and toasted walnuts on top, these made for a perfect New Year's Day treat that would be healthy and filling enough for any day of the week.  With my own substitutions, here's what I used....

1 Tbsp ground flaxseed (throw some whole flaxseed in a high speed blender, voila: ground flaxseed)
2 1/2 tbsp water
2 ripe bananas (original calls for 3, but we only had 2)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda 
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (we keep a few vanilla beans soaking in a bottle of vodka for this purpose)
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 c brown sugar (I halved the amount of sugar in the original recipe, because I tend to prefer things less sweet)
2 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup
3/4 tsp sea salt
3/4 c coconut milk (we hadn't made almond milk, so I opened up a can of coconut milk I had on hand. This worked out beautifully)
1/2 c dark chocolate chips, 70% or greater and dairy free (because who doesn't love melted chocolate in things?!)

For the flour: original calls for a mix of almond meal/flour, a gluten-free flour blend, and rolled oats.  Not having any of the gluten free blend on hand, I mixed my own to add up to the same quantity. Here's what I used --

1 1/4 c almond flour
3/4 c almond meal (coarser than flour)
1/2 c coconut flour 
1 1/4 c rolled oats

I also pressed some walnuts into the top of 8 of the muffins before baking, so they came out nice and toasted by the end.


Preheat oven to 375
Line a standard muffin tin with muffin cups, makes 12 muffins

1. Prepare a "flax egg" by mixing the ground flaxseed and water together and giving it 5 minutes to gel.
2. Mash up your bananas to a liquid but slightly chunky consistency, then mix with the flax egg, baking powder, and baking soda.
3. Add vanilla, oil, salt, sugar, and syrup and whisk to combine. Then whisk in coconut milk. (Set aside leftover coconut milk to use later, or blend it up right away with some frozen fruit for a smoothie to tie you over until these come out of the oven...)
4. Add all flour ingredients and oats, stirring with a wooden spoon until just combined, and then fold in chocolate chips at the end. 
5. Divide evenly into your muffin cups, and then press in walnut topping (or add hemp seed, or shredded coconut, or chia seeds -- whatever suits your fancy).

Bake for 28-32 minutes or until golden brown.  Enjoy :)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Pan Fried Tempeh and Market Stir Fry

Day 1. Pan Fried Tempeh and Farmer's Market Stir Fry
Monday, 25 September 2017

Farmer's Market stir fry.

  • Mushrooms. These were something fancy from the farmer's market mushroom stand, but I don't remember what. I do know they were delicious, and they stood up really well in the stir fry. Wash them really well, and cut into bite size pieces.
  • Red onion. How could you make a stir fry without one? Once these and the mushrooms are ready to go, get them all going in your saute pan with 3 Tbsp coconut oil and 3 Tbsp water.
  • Garlic. Mince 3-4 cloves and throw them in with your onions and mushrooms.
  • Bell peppers. Add 1-2 of these depending on size, the brighter the better. Add a bit more water to the pan if it starts to dry out too much here.
  • Purple cabbage. This holds up really well in the stir fry and adds amazing color.
  • Spinach. Add this right at the very end, splash it all with water and cover for about 2 minutes. This will steam the spinach just enough, and then you're done!
Fried tempeh.
  • Tempeh. If you're not familiar, tempeh is a fermented soy cake originating in Indonesia, and it has probiotic properties similar to yogurt but without the dairy. I used one package and just followed the instructions. Super simple. Slice in 1/4" thin slices, and marinate (or douse, if you're in a hurry like I was) in a bowl while you heat up your skillet with about 3 Tbsp coconut oil on medium heat. Lay out the pieces and let them brown on one side for about 4-5 minutes, then flip them over and repeat. 
  • Marinade. Probably best to mix this up ahead of time, but I literally spooned it over the tempeh three minutes before it went in the pan, and it turned out just fine.
    • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
    • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
    • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds

It was vegan, and it was delicious. I had forgotten how amazing tempeh can taste, and the combination of tempeh, mushrooms, and a pile of colorful veggies was completely satisfying.  The best part? It all came together in about half an hour, so I had time to make that and write this too :)