Gourmet Veggie Mama

Stocking the (Vegetarian) Freezer

With a baby due this month (!), we’ve been working on stocking our freezer with delicious, healthy meals for those hazy newborn days when cooking just isn’t a priority… or sometimes even a possibility. Since Nora made her appearance a little early, we didn’t do as much freezer stocking last time around, but we made it through just fine with a mixture of family and friends cooking and bringing meals for us, prepared foods, and takeout. This time around, we are pretty well prepared, I think. We’ll see soon!

For a couple of months, I’ve been making larger batches of some freezer-friendly meals and putting the extra in the freezer. I’ve actually done very little cooking exclusively for the freezer, but we’ve been building up our stock bit by bit.*

Stocking the (Vegetarian) Freezer

* Yes, there are some prepared meals in there, too. Michael Angelo’s is good stuff, yo. And don’t knock Amy’s either.

There are tons of resources out there for stocking the freezer for omnivores, but, I found, relatively few for vegetarians. A lot of freezer meals tend to be crockpot-ready meals, and those tend to be pretty meat-centric. However, that doesn’t mean that vegetarian meals can’t be freezer-friendly, too! So, I thought I’d share some of the recipes we’ve used to stock the freezer, as well as a few tips I’ve learned along the way.

In general, soups freeze really well, as do non-cream-based pasta sauces (just make fresh pasta to go with it), lasagna and enchiladas (freeze the sauce separately, or use good-quality packaged sauce). Beans are also good freezer candidates, and you can either freeze them cooked plain (so you can throw them into other dishes) or prepared, as in a soup or chili. Don’t forget bread (it’s nice to have a homemade loaf to go with that soup) and a few treats you can bake at a moment’s notice, like chocolate chip cookies. Yep, I think we will eat just fine for those few weeks after the baby arrives.

C’mon Baby Girl! We’re ready to meet you!

Tips for Freezing:

  • Use disposable baking dishes. Normally I’m not a fan, but not having dishes to clean up when you are dealing with a newborn (or recovering from surgery, or what have you) is priceless. Foil baking pans with lids are the bomb for things like enchiladas, pasta or lasagna.
  • Use freezer bags, and lay them flat to freeze. This saves a lot of space, and they’ll thaw a lot faster when you’re ready to use them, too.
  • Be sure to print meal names, dates and reheating instructions on every container. Make it idiot-proof so you don’t have to think too much about it. Some of us are pretty dumb when sleep-deprived.
  • Make sure to leave plenty of time to thaw your meal before you’re ready to eat it! This seems like a no-brainer, but some things take longer than just a day in the fridge to completely unfreeze, and you don’t want your dinner plans upset when you realize your mac and cheese is still a mac-and-cheese-sicle after an hour in the oven. Not that that has ever happened to me. *ahem*
  • Start early. If you freeze a few meals here and there, it won’t seem like such a huge undertaking, and before you know it — voila, you have a freezer stash!

What’s in Our Freezer:

Roasted Fennel Tomato Sauce (just add pasta and parmesan)

Crock Pot Potato Soup

Sweet Potato and Chard Enchiladas

Veggie Chili

Various beans  – including crock pot pinto beans, borlotti beans and cooked chickpeas

Black-Eyed Peas

Veggie lasagna (I made a big pan and froze half of it, wrapped in freezer Press ‘n’ Seal)

Garlic-artichoke pasta sauce (frozen without the cream)

White Bean Soup with Mushrooms, Spinach and Quinoa

Split Pea Soup

Cloverleaf French Bread

Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza

 

Other Freezer-Friendly Meals:

Mexican White Bean Soup

Creamy Roasted Tomato and Orzo Soup (freeze prior to adding the cream)

Baked Rigatoni with Eggplant

Kale and White Bean Soup

Spiced Red Lentil Soup with Kale

Black Bean Soup

Lentil-Spinach Soup

Lentil Soup

Tunisian Vegetable Stew

Black Bean Chili

Black-Eyed Peas and Greens with Leeks

Butternut Squash and Chickpea Tagine

Chard and Sweet Potato Stew

Spinach and Mushroom Enchiladas

Chard Enchiladas

Macaroni and Cheese

Chard Lasagna

Chard and Mushroom Lasagna

Hearty Vegetable Lasagna

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Sweet Chili Sauce

You know what’s good? Brussels sprouts. I know, I know — they’re all the rage right now, but I have to say, I’m so glad they’ve been re-discovered and that people are actually doing them right!

Roasting is the way to go, hands-down. You’re not still cutting those little Xs in the bottom of your Brussels sprouts and boiling them are you? Roasting is so much easier, and so much tastier, too.

The hubby and I went out to dinner at Uchiko a little while ago, and, among the many dishes they wowed us with was a side of crispy roasted Brussels sprouts with sweet chili sauce. Since I love Brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving and wanted to include them in our feast, I decided to try my hand at a similar recipe. Although ours didn’t come out as crispy (or, truth be told, as greasy*) as Uchiko’s, they were still awesome.

Roasted Brussels Spouts with Sweet Chili Sauce

* Not necessarily saying that’s a bad thing — they were utterly delicious.

I love the combination of soy sauce and sweet chili sauce on these, for a slightly Asian spin that was still perfectly at home with more traditional Thanksgiving foods. We had the rest of the sprouts (recipe testing, round 2) with a dinner of caramelized tofu with ramen noodles a couple nights ago, and it went great with that, too. Definitely a must-try!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Sweet Chili Sauce
Author: 
Cuisine: Asian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
 
Ingredients
  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 2 Tbs canola oil
  • 2 Tbs tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs sweet chili sauce**
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Toss the Brussels sprouts in a bowl with the oil and soy sauce to coat them, and then spread them in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes, or until partially tender.
  3. Toss the sprouts and then raise the oven temperature to 400. Continue to roast for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until tender, crisp and browed, tossing every few minutes to ensure even browning.
  4. Remove the Brussels sprouts from the oven and toss in a bowl with the sweet chili sauce. Serve immediately.
Notes
** Available at Asian groceries or the Asian foods section of some grocery stores.

 

Thanksgiving Pre-Game

Thanksgiving is just two days away! It has really snuck up on me this year, but we’re keeping it pretty quiet. It’ll just be our family of three, plus my mom, and Mom is bringing the turkey (for the omnivores), dressing and a chocolate bourbon pecan pie, so I’m just in charge of sides. Just as well — that’s my favorite part anyway!

Here’s what’s on our menu this year:

Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Onions from Smitten Kitchen
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Sweet Chili Sauce (copycat of a dish we had at Uchiko not long ago, which was to die for — I’ll report back if the results are good!)
Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes from Cooking Planit
Spiced Cranberry Sauce from the Kitchn
Sausage Balls (both veggie and non-veggie versions)
Sweet potatoes with pecans and honey
Cream cheese-stuffed jalapeños (a family favorite)

Here are a few other favorites that might strike your fancy (or check out my Pinterest board for more inspiration):

Green Beans with Creamy Mushrooms

Green Beans with Creamy Mushrooms

Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole from Ginny’s Austin

Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole

Kale Salad with Parmesan and Balsamic Syrup from Cooking Planit

Pumpkin Pie with Graham Cracker Crust

Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie

Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie

White and Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding with Irish Cream Sauce (my favorite alternative Thanksgiving dessert)

And, thinking ahead, here are some uses for all of those Thanksgiving leftovers you’re sure to have. You’re welcome in advance!

Although our celebration is low-key this year, coordination can be a big challenge if you are planning for a crowd. Getting everything to the table warm and on time, without any major disasters, can be quite a feat. Now is the time to start thinking about it. If you’re totally into the organization thing (and I get that — it’s my tendency), it’s never too late to make a spreadsheet! Think especially about what you can do ahead (cranberry sauce actually tastes better after a day in the fridge, and pies can be made the night before) and what has to be a real-time event. And, last but not least, make use of other people’s work to make Thanksgiving planning much, much easier. A couple of my favorite tools this year are Cooking Planit and Slate’s Thanksgiving planner.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope your year has been filled with reasons for giving thanks (mine sure has), and that you get to spend it surrounded by loved ones and good food.

Roasted Vegetable Flatbread with Goat Cheese (from Edible Austin)

A couple of months ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Jen and Alex Jackson for a profile in Edible Austin. The couple has since moved on to San Francisco (Bay Area friends, our loss is your gain!), but they were delightful to meet and chat with. I hope you’ll check out the profile here.

I was also privileged to recipe-test the flatbread that Jen and Alex shared with us for the magazine. That was the best part!

Roasted Vegetable Flatbread with Goat Cheese (Edible Austin)

I did this when eggplant, peppers and tomatoes were still bounteous, as was that peppery summer arugula, but luckily Jen and Alex provided us with a few seasonal variations that would be perfect for right about now (butternut squash, with sage and caramelized leeks, plus a great sheep’s milk cheese, anyone?).

This version, though, with summer veggies, creamy goat cheese and eggs cracked right over the pizza, is to die for, and will definitely be back on our table next summertime!

Roasted Vegetable Flatbread with Goat Cheese (from Edible Austin)

I will tell you that, although the dough is a little time-consuming to make, it is hands-down the best I’ve made in my own kitchen (and I’ve tried quite a few!). Head over to Edible Austin to read the profile and grab the recipe, and I do hope you’ll try it out yourself!

Still Running

I’ve been absent for a bit, and I apologize. Food just isn’t doing it for me these days… not like it used to. It will again, and I actually have a few great recipes in the queue to share with you, but I’ve been suffering from the dreaded writer’s block (aka lack of motivation). Someone wise once told me that if I couldn’t get motivated to write, I should just write about what I’m excited about or invested in at the time, so I’m going to do just that, and hope that it gets the creative juices flowing again.

So, all of that is a rather roundabout way of saying that this post has nothing to do with food. Instead, it’s a digression into my running life, which I haven’t really talked about much since my latest round of marathon training.

running for 2

How’s it going? Well, I’m 35 weeks pregnant and still running, and pretty darn proud of that. I ran throughout my pregnancy with Nora, and I aim to do the same thing this time around. It has been much harder this time, though, for a bunch of reasons. First, I already have an active kid to run around after, and I don’t get to sleep as much as I did the first go-round, so I’m starting out from a place of greater exhaustion. Getting up before Nora does in the morning to go running? Yeah, that’s not happening. Second, this pregnancy (as I’m finding is common) has been more difficult than my first. Physically, I just don’t feel as well. It’s hard to want to go for a run when you’re just trying not to puke (hello, first trimester and a part of the second), or when it’s a choice between a sorely-needed nap and a run. I’ve also had a ton of hip issues, and lately I’ve having trouble getting my legs to cooperate — they feel super-heavy after running about a mile, the way they might toward the end of a marathon. (My chiropractor thinks it’s a nerve issue caused by tight muscles, and I’m working the foam roller to try to alleviate it.) Finally, weather has been a significant factor, at least until recently. I lived in Northern California when I was pregnant with Nora. Running through the summer was no big deal. Here, in the land of 100-degree temperatures from May through September (not to mention insane humidity), it is a big deal, even when one isn’t carrying an extra little heater with one at all times. So, to put it mildly, the heat has made it difficult. Thank goodness for fall, which is finally — finally — here.

But why am I still running? I get asked this question a lot, and I ask it of myself constantly. When it comes right down to it, I’m stubborn. I don’t want to quit running, because I like it, it makes me feel good, and I don’t want to have to start back up from scratch after recovering from pregnancy and birth. I’m worried that I just wouldn’t do it, since there are too many factors pushing against it — sleep deprivation with a newborn, the pressures or everyday life and being able to find rhythm that includes time for running — and that would be sad, because I love being a runner. Running is “me” time, and I need that in my life. And, running is good for me and good for the baby I’m growing. Regular exercise during pregnancy helps build a stronger placenta, may make for an easier labor, and tends to produce, leaner, healthier newborns. And, just recently, a study found a link between exercise during pregnancy and smarter babies. So I feel good about that.

Am I running a lot? No. I try to get out twice a week, and sometimes that doesn’t happen. I also try to do a lot of walking, and I ride my bike (inside on a trainer), both of which are more comfortable for me now. I’m also really slow. Like, about two minutes a mile slower than my pre-pregnancy pace, on a good day. And I rarely crack 3 miles nowadays — in fact, sometimes I don’t even crack 2. I enjoy it sometimes — the other day I had a spectacular 2-mile run in the rain just as a cold front was coming in, during which I felt great — but more often, I’m just trudging through. It’s a means to an end now, and I’m in the home stretch.

If you’re interested in reading more about running and exercise during pregnancy, I highly recommend the book Exercising Through Your Pregnancy (though it looks old-school, the information is still entirely current) and The Runner’s World Guide to Running and Pregnancy. I also have to put in a good word for the maternity workout gear available on fitmaternity.com, and, if you’re planning to run during pregnancy, I personally could not have survived this far without the Gabrialla maternity support belt — it’s a lifesaver in the late second and third trimesters, and I swear no one can tell you’re wearing it under clothes. Happy running, everyone!

Easy Margherita Pizza + No-Knead Dough

I’ve been experimenting a lot with pizza lately. Although there is a special place in my heart for grilled pizzas, with the weather turning cooler (at least in theory), and with my pregnancy-fueled love of all things carb-y, I am turning more toward a thicker crust and an oven preparation. I’ve tried several recipes recently — Chicago-style deep dish pizza (recipe to come, once I’ve perfected it), a flatbread recipe that’s to die for (more on that soon) — but this one just may be my favorite.

Easy Margherita Pizza (with No-Knead Dough)

I was so excited when I saw Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for “lazy pizza dough” — it’s a no-knead dough that you basically mix and forget about until it’s time to stretch, top and bake. She gives options for an overnight, all-day or part-day rise, but I’m going to give you the part-day rise here, since it’s the only one I’ve tried (and it worked beautifully). We also seem to have lost our pizza stone and peel somewhere in the cross-country move (18 months or so ago… which goes to show you how often it got used), so, with some trepidation, I baked this pizza on a well-oiled baking sheet. Guess what? It still tuned out crispy and delicious. So, no special equipment required!

nora pizza

Plus, it’s Nora-approved.

Easy Margherita Pizza
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
 
Ingredients
For the dough:
  • 3 cups (375 grams) all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp (slightly heaped) active dry yeast
  • 1½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1¼ cups warm water
For the pizza:
  • olive oil for greasing pan
  • 1 14.5-oz can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
  • 8 oz mozzarella (aged, not fresh), grated
  • 2 oz parmesan, grated
  • several fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
Instructions
For the dough:
  1. In a large non-reactive bowl, mix the flour, yeast, salt and water. The dough will be craggy, but should come together pretty well. If necessary, you can add another tablespoon or so of water.
  2. Once all ingredients are incorporated, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit for about 6 hours, until more than doubled in size. (See the original recipe for overnight and all-day rise options, if that timing works better for you.)
For the pizza:
  1. When the dough is almost ready, make the sauce and prepare your toppings. Preheat the oven to 500°. Oil a rimmed baking sheet generously with olive oil.
  2. Combine the crushed tomatoes, garlic cloves, salt and crushed red pepper in a blender or food processor and process until smooth.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and shape it into a ball.
  4. Flour the top of the dough ball and, using well-floured hands, grab one side of the dough and let it stretch down, repeating several times.
  5. Place the stretched dough onto the prepared baking sheet and stretch and spread it with your hands until it is roughly 9 x 13 inches in size (stretching almost to the edges of the pan).
  6. Top with approximately ½ cup of the sauce, spreading evenly (reserve the rest for another use). Sprinkle the mozzarella over the sauce, and top with the parmesan.
  7. Slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the crust is puffed and the cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown, turning once to ensure even cooking.
  8. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the basil leaves. Cool slightly, then slide onto a cutting board and cut into pieces. Serve warm with a salad, and enjoy!

 

Spiced Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin bread. Who doesn’t love it? And it’s the perfect time of year for it, too.

Spiced pumpkin bread

Head on over to LiveMom and check out my latest post, with a great, versatile recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Bread. I’ve been tweaking it, and now I think it’s just perfect!

Simple (but Delicious!) Roasted Broccoli

Looking for a way to spice up your veggie repertoire without going totally overboard? Is steaming your broccoli just not doing it for you anymore? Well, I’ve got an idea for you — and it’s one that our family has been loving for the last couple of weeks. Yes, including Nora — broccoli is one of the relatively few foods she will eat (raw or cooked) with gusto these days.*

* Although, preschoolers being what they are, I’m sure that will change soon enough.

Roasting broccoli takes a little longer than steaming it, but not by much, and it’s worth it. It imparts a great, almost caramelized flavor, and you can just toss it in the oven with whatever else you’ve got on, so it’s not exactly time-consuming. Plus, adding a little fat to your veggies (here in the form of olive oil) helps your body absorb all those nutrients, and makes them tastier to boot. It’s a win-win!

We had roasted broccoli the other night with ultimate baked potatoes, and it made for the perfect, simple weeknight meal.

Simple Roasted Broccoli

This preparation is so simple it almost seems silly to make it into a recipe… but it’s too good not to share!

Roasted Broccoli
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-4
 
Ingredients
  • 1 head broccoli
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400. Cut the broccoli into bite-sized florets, and toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
  2. Spread the broccoli in a single layer in a baking dish. Roast for 15-20 minutes, tossing at least once to ensure even browning. Remove when bright green and starting to brown in spots, but still crisp.

 

Double Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I happened to notice a recipe for oatmeal cookies on the back of my box of McCann’s Irish Oatmeal one morning while cooking breakfast, so naturally I had to give it a whirl. Also naturally, I had to switch things up a bit. I’m not a fan of raisins in my oatmeal cookies, but I love chocolate chips… and I just happened to have semi-sweet and white chocolate chips on hand. I would’ve thrown some walnuts in, too, but we were out. They’d be lovely with or without.

Double Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I am trying to involve Nora more in cooking, and baking is one of the ways we can really have fun in the kitchen. Of course, everything takes twice as long (or more), but she loves to dump ingredients into the bowl, stir, turn on the mixer — and sample, of course. One of these days I’ll be able to sit back and have her whip me up a batch of cookies. Now that’s what parenting is all about — isn’t it?

The hubby, who self-described as “not a fan” of oatmeal cookies, loved these. So did all the neighborhood kids! Oh, and I certainly ate more than my share — to that I must confess.°

Double Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Author: 
Recipe type: cookies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3 dozen
 
Ingredients
  • 1¼ cups butter, softened
  • ½ cup brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup white chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars until light yellow and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
  2. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl and beat into the butter mixture on low speed, until just combined. Add the oats and beat until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  3. Drop the batter by rounded teaspoons onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Cool slightly, then remove to a wire rack to cool. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

 

Sweet Potato Oven Fries with Garlic Aioli

It must be fall, because sweet potatoes are here! And, of course, when life gives you sweet potatoes, the very first thing you must do is make sweet potato fries.

Sweet potato oven fries with garlic aioli

This time around, I went for a super-simple preparation of wedge oven fries, skin-on, served with a homemade(-ish) garlic aioli. It would have been all the way* homemade, but it was left over from a dinner this weekend — spinach and chickpeas with garlic aioli — and, as I am currently knocked up, the raw-egg version was just a little too iffy for me. Of course, that version is delicious, and I highly recommend it, unless you are similarly immunocompromised.**

*As Nora would say. That’s one of her favorite expressions these days. For instance, in choosing an outfit in the morning, she often wants to be “all the way pink,” “all the way green,” or “all the way stripey.” It’s quite fashionable. But I digress.

** I still sample raw cookie dough, however. I am a conundrum.

The halfway homemade version is quite delicious, though, and super-easy to whip up as long as you have good quality mayo, garlic cloves and a lemon on hand. Bonus points — it’s even better after the flavors meld in the fridge for a day or two.

We had these the other night along with spiced-up grilled cheeses and a salad, and it made a lovely, super-quick meal.

Sweet Potato Oven Fries with Garlic Aioli
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3-4
 
Ingredients
For sweet potato fries:
  • 2½ tsp peanut oil
  • 1½ – 2 lbs sweet potatoes (about 2-3 medium)
  • salt and pepper to taste
For aioli:
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed in a garlic press
  • juice of one lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
For sweet potato fries:
  1. Preheat the oven to 400. Using ½ tsp peanut oil, grease a rimmed baking sheet and set inside the oven to heat while you prepare the sweet potatoes.
  2. Scrub the sweet potatoes and, leaving the skin on, cut them lengthwise into 8 wedges (or more, depending on how big your sweet potatoes are). Cut in half crosswise, if desired.
  3. Toss the sweet potatoes in a large bowl with the remaining peanut oil and salt and pepper to taste. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and spread the sweet potato wedges in one layer on the hot sheet.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes on one side, then flip each wedge using tongs or a spatula and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool slightly and serve with garlic aioli.
For aioli:
  1. Mix the mayo, pressed garlic cloves and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

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