Skillet gnocchi with kale and white beans (5-6 servings)

Cheesy gooeyness to the rescue!

You know that week where everything goes wrong -- your intestines turn against you for days on end and you turn in your grad work late and you're supposed to go see your parents on the afternoon your downstairs floor floods AGAIN? So you settle into a funk but then you realize there are worse problems in the world and you need to stop feeling sorry for yourself? So you stop being all mopey but then you feel guilty that you were self-pitying in the first place because you grew up Catholic and you have guilt issues? That week? Yeah, it's been that week.

Lucky for us, there are hearty, melty, secretly nutritious dishes like Eating Well's offering that can make you believe everything is right again. And all you need to regain your faith in the world is some plump potato dumplings, a couple handfuls of kale, and some creamy white beans.

You will need:

  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil or butter
  • 1 (roughly) 16-oz package of non-refrigerated gnocchi (plain or flavored)
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 6 cups chopped kale, chard, or spinach leaves (any thick stems removed)
  • 1 15-oz can diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings
  • 1 15-oz can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Parmesan cheese to taste

Steps:

  1. Cook the gnocchi in boiling water according to the package directions. (It'll probably ask you to boil them for about 2 minutes after they start to float.)
  2. As soon as you add the gnocchi to the boiling water, start melting the oil or butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. When the gnocchi are done, use a slotted spoon to gently transfer them from the boiling water to the hot skillet. Cook them in the oil or butter, stirring often, until they begin to turn light brown and crispy on the outsides. 
  3. Next, sprinkle the onion and garlic powder over the gnocchi, pour the white wine into the bottom of the skillet, and place the greens on top of the gnocchi. Cover the skillet and let everything cook until the greens turn a vivid green and start to wilt (only a minute or two). 
  4. Stir in the tomatoes and beans and cook just long enough to warm them up. Sprinkle the cheeses over top and put the lid on for another minute to let the cheese melt. Serve immediately.

The original recipe tells you to brown the outside of the gnocchi without cooking them first, which is what I did the first two times I made this recipe. Unfortunately, they came out too doughy and didn't reheat well in the microwave the next day. Boiling them first takes a little more time, but it definitely makes the texture better, in my opinion. I think you'll find this dish satisfying and delicious! Plus, it's a great way to sneak in some extra veggies!

Free giveaway!

Emile Noël, maker of non-GMO, organic, and fair trade gourmet oils, has been kind enough to offer a complimentary bottle of organic mild olive oil to one lucky MainlyVeggie fan! 

To enter the drawing, leave a comment below or like the accompanying post on MainlyVeggie's Facebook page. The winner will be announced on Friday, April 11th.

Look for my review of Emile Noël's roasted pumpkin seed oil in the near future!

Pineapple-jícama salad (4+ servings)

Guess what? Spring is finally here. Let's celebrate with some sunny side-dish sweetness! (Hands up if you love alliteration!)

Jícama is still relatively new to me, although this isn't the first recipe I've posted that uses it. In case you aren't already familiar with it, jícama is a Mexican root vegetable with the crunch of a raw potato and the wateriness of a water chestnut.  Its snap and subtle sweetness make it a great partner for super-sweet, juicy pineapple.

This particular recipe comes from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and the only change I made was to increase the amount of pineapple. It makes a great companion to Mexican food (I served beside pineapple-black bean enchiladas). The mint is cool and refreshing, while the chile is hot and invigorating. The sweetness balances everything out, and the dish itself is very quick to put together. Plus, the colors are gorgeous! I'll definitely keep this recipe handy for summer nights when I don't feel like using the heat of the stove.

You will need:

  • 1 medium jícama, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cups chopped fresh pineapple (It's definitely worth it to use fresh over canned here)
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • half a jalapeño, chopped into big pieces for background heat (my preference) or diced for more aggressive, every-bite heat
  • 1/4 cup chopped mint leaves
  • pinch salt
  • sprinkle of onion powder (or you can use chopped scallions)

Steps:

  1. Put all ingredients into a serving bowl and toss gently to combine.

I can't wait to take this to a potluck or picnic sometime this season! It keeps nicely in the fridge; in fact, I think the heat and sweetness increased after a day or two.

Tuna Chickpea salad à la my mom

What the hell is going on with this weather? Last Sunday was 72°, and then we had freezing rain on Tuesday, which led to a day off from school. Today, we have more ice and another day off (bye bye, spring break), and then tomorrow, it's supposed to be sunny and 64°. I don't get it. Being from Pennsylvania, I'm pretty used to the cold and ugly weather, but having the sunny, gorgeous days in between has made the wintry weather so much worse to deal with.

The funny thing about the bad weather is that it makes me miss home. It's not that I want to be where there's MORE of this (and from what my family and friends have told me, this has been an especially brutal winter in Berks/Lancaster County), but I miss being stuck inside with my family when it's cold outside. After a long afternoon of shoveling (which, when I was younger, consisted more of me and my sister romping across the yard and sidewalks while our dad hollered, "I just shoveled there!" in the background), we'd all retire to the warmth of the house, blinking to adjust our eyes to the relative darkness of the indoors, and throw our sopping wet clothes into a pile. While my mother got started on several dozen pounds of laundry (the poor woman), the three of us would collapse in the living room to watch Murder, She Wrote or something else similarly inane.

By dinnertime, we were all starving. I knew my mom would be too tired to make anything elaborate, but that was fine, because one of my favorite of my mom's recipes was also one of her go-to quick staples: tuna salad. The funny thing about my mom's tuna salad was that I don't ever remember seeing her make it; it would just appear at dinnertime in that same faded green, round tupperware bowl with the frosted, flexible lid. My mom is a smart woman; she doesn't ruin her tuna salad with unnecessary things like chopped egg or olives. Oh no. Her tuna salad is simple, enhanced only by a little bit of lemon and some tangy pickle relish.

These days, I make the same recipe using mashed-up chickpeas. True, it doesn't have the same chewy texture or seaworthy saltiness as tuna has, but the chickpeas still make a lovely sandwich filling when you need something light and quick.

You will need:

  • 1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2-4 Tbsp mayo, depending on preference (or vegan mayo, if you prefer)
  • 2 Tbsp sweet pickle relish
  • 1/4 tsp lemon pepper
  • 1/3 tsp onion powder (or less, if your lemon pepper mix contains onion powder)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (or less, if your lemon pepper mix contains salt)
  • dash of soy sauce
  • dash of lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1-2 stalks celery, diced (you can throw the leaves in too)

Steps:

  1. Place the drained chickpeas in a small bowl. Using a potato masher, roughly mash the chickpeas, leaving a few whole.
  2. Add all the remaining ingredients to the chickpeas and stir to combine.

 

You can serve the chickpea salad on top of salad greens, in a pita (as shown), by itself, or -- my favorite -- between toasted slices of rye bread, topped with American cheese. 

Now I kind of want to go build a snowman...

Flu stew (variable servings)

If the flu were a person, she'd be that girl you spent some time with every few years during your childhood, mainly because she knew a lot of the people in your class. Maybe she visited you once or twice during college, but after that, you parted ways and didn't think much about each other. From time to time, you'd hear about her visiting somebody you knew, but you shrugged it off because you didn't remember much about her after all those years apart.

But then one day in your adult years, she knocks on your door -- usually late at night -- cold and shivering and begging for a place to lie down. You let her in, figuring she'll be out of the way in the morning. But when she's still with you a few days later, you realize something is most definitely wrong. First of all, she's so irritating that she makes your blood boil but so clingy that she chills you to the bone. And god, she's boring. She says she wants to get caught up, but really, she just wants to force you to sit on the couch and watch movies for days in end. She's boring enough to make you ache all over. Even the most menial tasks, like doing laundry or washing your hair, become impossibly exhausting when she's around. And every time you think you're over her and ready to kick her out, she forces you to spend yet another boring day at home with her. And you can't even drink while she's around! Is there no end in sight??

Naturally, the only way to overcome both the flu and awkward social situations is soup. I don't know why, but soup seems to cure everything. And when you're not feeling well, the easiest way to prepare it is to throw stuff in a crockpot and then take a three-hour nap while it cooks. Trust me.

Now, I realize that people are of two schools of thought when it comes to flexible recipes: Some are excited by the challenge, and some are paralyzed with intimidation. I promise it's not scary. Basically, all you're doing here is gathering up whatever leftover and/or frozen veggies you can find, covering them with broth or ready-made soup, and tossing it all into a slow cooker. This really couldn't be easier, and when you're sick, you need things to be as easy as they can be.

You will need:

  • Several cups of fresh, canned, or frozen veggies, chopped into bite-sized pieces (I used broccoli florets, frozen corn and peas, sliced snow peas, chopped baby carrots, a diced tomato, and frozen butternut squash)
  • Some protein, such as chickpeas or granulated TVP (I used 1/2 cup TVP)
  • Whatever spices and herbs seem fitting (I used dried basil, dill, oregano, smoked paprika, pepper, and salt)
  • Several cups of store-bought soup and/or broth (I used a 32-oz carton of Imagine's Harvest Corn Soup and two cups of vegetable broth)

Steps:

  1. Place the veggies and protein in the bottom of the crockpot. Add enough liquid to cover the solid ingredients. Place lid on crockpot and turn to high for 3 hours.

Honestly, it could not be much easier. When deciding which ingredients and base to use, think about how you're feeling and what your body needs. If you have a sore throat or chest congestion, you probably want to stay away from dairy-based soups. If you're all stuffed up, you might want to focus on aromatic, Asian-style ingredients like ginger, garlic, and green onions. Most of all, you just want to make sure you're getting plenty of vegetables and protein. 

As far as the seasonings go, I'd suggest waiting until the end to add the salt. For the most part, it's hard to mess up something like this, but salt is tough to undo. (You can try adding another cup of water and then tasting it to see if the salinity is less harsh.) Just go with what feels good and enjoy it!

Coconut lentils and Brazilian rice (4-6 servings)

If I could design my dream job, I would be a Leftover Efficiency Expert/Canine Snuggler. Clients would call me to ask what they could make with, say, half a can of black beans, a stray butternut squash, and a lonely lime, and I would help them put together a killer recipe that showcases the flavors of their leftovers without wasting food. Then said clients would compensate me by allowing me to play and snuggle with their dogs. Of course, this job would exist in a magical realm where money is a useless commodity and dander allergies are nonexistent.

Unfortunately, this cruel world demands we have legitimate jobs to make money so we can buy things and pay our rent. And dogs insist on having fur, and landlords prevent tenants from owning pets. So until those things change, I'll continue making cheap and interesting recipes that distract me from my lack of dog. 

Today's offering was inspired by an unused tomato and a bag of unsweetened coconut flakes. (Doesn't every great tale of adventure begin thusly?) Truth be told, I'd had the recipe for Vegetarian Times' coconut lentils bookmarked for a couple weeks. When I was finally ready to make it, I did some research to find a Brazilian-style side dish, and found Food.com's Brazilian rice recipe, which serendipitously required a tomato!

Lentils are so versatile and satisfying. They're loved all over the place -- India, France, Egypt, Brazil -- and pack a great protein punch. This particular rendition enhances lentils' earthiness with savory spices and subtle, fruity sweetness from raisins. The crunchy, toasty coconut flakes are the crowning feature. The accompanying rice dish is light and simple with its bright tomato and bold garlic. For both the lentils and the rice, I used onion powder instead of chopped onion because of my IBS, but feel free to use fresh onion if you can handle it!

Gluten-free coconut lentils

You will need:

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, lightly toasted
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil (I used vegetable oil since that's all I had)
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry green lentils, picked through and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 tsp lime juice

Steps:

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan (one with a lid -- you'll need it later) over medium heat. Once oil is warm, sprinkle in the onion powder, ginger, turmeric, and allspice; sauté until the spices are fragrant -- about 30 seconds. Next, add the tomato paste to the pan and sauté another 30 seconds. Add a cup of water to deglaze the pan.
  2. Add the lentils and raisins to the pan, along with 2 more cups of water. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to medium-low heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Uncover and simmer 10-15 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.
  3. Stir in the lime juice and season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish each portion with a sprinkle of toasted coconut and serve.

Brazilian rice

You will need: 

  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 garlic clove, minced 
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1 cup dry long-grain white rice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth

Steps:

  1. Warm the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add in the onion powder and minced garlic, and sauté until the garlic is fragrant but not browned. 
  2. Add in the chopped tomato, rice, salt and pepper, and broth. Increase heat to bring to a boil; then, lower heat to a simmer, cover, and allow to cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the rice is softened. Serve alongside the lentils.

This is a tasty, simple recipe that's good to bookmark for visiting relatives. It's the type of dish that will impress your mother and make her feel exotic and audacious while you know the ingredients are readily accessible and you didn't go to any trouble. But you can smile at her compliments and say it's a much-loved, traditional Brazilian recipe, and she'll wonder how you grew up so quickly and figured out how to make tropical dishes with such flair. And maybe she'll be so impressed that she'll call your landlord and convince him to reverse his no-pet policy, and then she'll buy you a Havanese puppy.

Hey, a girl can dream.

Chipotle mac and cheese (4 servings)

What if I told you that you could make a completely dairy-free, animal-free macaroni and cheese dish that tasted like BACON? Would you call me crazy? (It's okay; I've been called worse.) 

Thanks to the ever-impressive Isa at The Post-Punk Kitchen, it's possible. And it's possibly one of the most delicious vegan dishes I've made to date.

Chipotles (smoked jalapeños) provide a bacon-y depth, while ground cashews make the dish decadent and creamy. I'll admit it: I was pretty skeptical about this one when I first found the recipe. I've had plenty of bowls of rich, gooey macaroni and cheese concoctions over the years (especially since moving to the South), and I wasn't sure how a dairy-free version would turn out. This version is a beautiful species of its own and shouldn't be made with the intention of fooling anyone into thinking it's made with real cheese or bacon. However, it is equally satisfying -- just in its own lovely way.

Isa's version called for miso in the sauce, but after scouring the Internet for ways to replace miso (I didn't want to buy a whole tub for one recipe), I found I could use tahini instead. Also, because Bryan isn't a fan of Brussels sprouts, I replaced them with roasted broccoli, which I think actually worked quite well, as the sauce soaked into the broccoli florets and infused them with flavor.

You will need: 

  • 8 oz dry macaroni (I used brown rice pasta but would recommend something sturdier)
  • 1 lb broccoli
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

Sauce: 

    • 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours
    • 2-4 chipotles in adobo, seeded (I used 2!) 
    • 1 cup vegetable broth
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
    • 2 Tbsp sesame tahini

    Steps: 

      1. Preheat the oven to 425° F and start a pot of water boiling for the pasta. Cut the broccoli into florets and wash/drain. Toss them with the oil and a dash of salt, and spread them out on a baking pan. Roast for 18-20 minutes, or until they're lightly browned on the edges.
      2. While the pasta water is working on boiling, make the sauce. Drain the cashews and place them, along with the rest of the sauce ingredients, into a blender or the bowl of a food processor. Blend until the sauce is totally smooth. (If you're using a food processor, it might not get totally smooth. Myeh. Still tastes good.) Taste for salt.
      3. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and place it back into the pot. 
      4. Ideally, the broccoli should be roasted by this point so that you can immediately add it into the pot with the pasta. Pour the sauce over the pasta and broccoli and stir gently to distribute the smoky, creamy sauce. Add salt, if needed, and serve immediately.

      One note: If you forget to soak the cashews ahead of time, you can simmer them in water in a covered saucepan for 15 minutes, and then just drain them and go from there. 

      It might have been the fault of the pasta I used, but this dish wasn't great when reheated in the microwave the next day, so try to eat as much as you can when you make it! (It won't be hard; trust me!)