Vegan egg roll bowls (4 servings)

Imagine you microwaved an egg roll and it exploded in the process. This dish is a purposeful, less messy version of that predictable occurrence.

If you like egg rolls and want to make them at home but don't want to bother with a deep fryer, this dish is for you. It takes all the best fillings of egg rolls (lightly sauteed cabbage, crispy carrots, and zesty green onions) and turns them inside out into a bowl. It's quick, easy, and filling! Plus, it's way healthier than a deep-fried egg roll!

You will need:

  • 3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp chili-garlic sauce
  • 1 tsp vegetable or canola oil
  • 8 oz seitan, chopped into small bits or ground up in a food processor
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1" piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 medium napa cabbage, shredded
  • 1 large carrot, shredded
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • rice crackers for garnish

Steps:

  1. Pour the soy sauce, vinegar, and chili-garlic sauce into a small jar with a lid; shake to mix and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large, rimmed skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is warm, add in the seitan, garlic, and ginger, stirring until the seitan is lightly browned. 
  3. Increase the heat to medium-high and push the seitan mixture to the outside of the pan. Add the cabbage, carrots, and scallions to the middle of the pan, and quickly stir fry the vegetables until they're softened. (It'll only take 2-3 minutes.)
  4. Turn off the heat and pour the soy sauce mixture into the pan. Toss the ingredients gently to combine and serve immediately, garnished with broken rice crackers.

I've only ever made this with seitan, but I'm sure it would also work well with tempeh or pressed tofu. The next time I make this, I want to try adding some sliced mushrooms in with the cabbage. 

Mixed citrus salad with feta and mint (~4 servings)

I know I've said this before, but every damn smittenkitchen recipe I make is fabulous. Deb is some sort of culinary sorceress; each recipe comes out perfectly seasoned and intensely flavorful. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I've never been let down by any of her creations. Now if only I could replicate her photography skills...

Here in Durham, the last two days' weather has been the meteorological equivalent of a cold, soggy sponge abandoned in the kitchen sink by an inconsiderate roommate. Days like this beg for happy, invigorating recipes like this one. Its vivid colors and succulent flavors are like optimism on a fork. They'll have you longing for sunnier days, warmer temperatures, and carefree afternoons with friends.

Then, perhaps, you'll remember pollen allergies. And mosquitoes. And sunburns. And stifling Carolina humidity. And sweaty thighs singed by car vinyl. And sinus headaches just ahead of summer thunderstorms.

You decide that maybe, for now, you're content with summery recipes and can wait on the other junk.

You will need:

  • 2 scallions
  • 4 pieces of citrus (I used a ruby red grapefruit, one blood orange, a navel orange, and a tangelo)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp smooth Dijon mustard (Read the label carefully if you're going for gluten-free)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • ~3 Tbsp crumbled feta cheese
  • a handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped or slivered

Steps:

  1. Thinly slice the green parts of the scallions into the bottom of a tall bowl. (I used my herb scissors for this step and for slivering the mint later on. Thanks, Mom!) Place a strainer or colander over the bowl.
  2. Next, you want to cut the peel off each piece of fruit and then slice it horizontally into 1/4"-thick wheels. The goal is to cut the white pith off (Oh, you pith off!) to avoid any bitterness. (Honestly, the best way to explain the cutting method is to provide this video, which illustrates the process beautifully. Pluck out any seeds as you go.)
  3. Place the slices of fruit in the strainer, which is now resting over the scallion bowl. The acidity from the juice will mellow the scallions. Allow them to drain a few minutes while you clean up your cutting board and find a shallow serving dish.
  4. Spread the citrus wheels out on the dish, overlapping the pieces as necessary. Use a fork or slotted spoon to fish the scallion slices out of the bowl; scatter them on top of the fruit, leaving the citrus juice behind in the bowl.
  5. Add the lemon juice, Dijon, and olive oil to the citrus juice in the bowl. Add a bit of salt and pepper. Whisk well.
  6. Drizzle the dressing over the fruit, then sprinkle with crumbled feta and chopped mint. Serve chilled.

This is a true appetizer: one that whets the palate without weighing it down with anything fried, bloomed, or stuffed. (Not that there's anything wrong with fried, bloomed, or stuffed, but there's a time and place for everything, you know.)

Homemade ginger tea and solace tea

Sometimes a person just needs the simple comfort of a warm mug of tea. And so I'll keep it simple: Here are two of my favorite herbal teas (tisanes, really) that are easy to make and lovely to drink. I hope you'll try them for yourself!

Homemade ginger tea (4 servings): This one is perfect for chilly, gray days since the ginger is so warming and invigorating. It's also a helpful remedy for belly troubles, which is the main reason I started making it. Two to three cups a day really makes a difference! To brew it, I use a one-quart mason jar and this mesh infuser, although you can always just strain out the ginger bits after you've steeped them for the required time if you don't have an infuser. The nice thing about the mesh strainer is that it keeps any bits of peel I missed out of the tea. Feel free to adjust the lime and sweetener to your taste. This will keep in the fridge for several days and can be consumed hot or cold, although I prefer it hot (at least during this time of year).

You will need:

  • A three- to four-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and diced into tiny pieces (Use a teaspoon to peel it!)
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 2 Tbsp honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, or your favorite sweetener
  • Juice of half a lime

Steps

  1. Place the ginger pieces in a mason jar, teapot, or whatever vessel you want to use for brewing. Pour the boiling water over the ginger and allow it to steep for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Remove the strainer or pour the tea through a sieve to remove the ginger pieces. Add sweetener of your choice and lime juice; stir gently.

 

Solace tea (Several dozen servings): This blend is based on the Comforting Tea that's sometimes served at Aveda salons, although it's WAY less expensive per cup. I like to give credit where credit is due, but I've been making this tea so long that I can't even remember where I found the original recipe. Some of the ingredients can be tough to find, admittedly, but your best bet is either an online retailer or the bulk spices section of a grocery store like Whole Foods. The herbs are expensive by the pound, but you won't be buying close to a pound of any one item. This tea is probably my all-time favorite herbal tisane; the licorice root is deliciously smooth, and the fennel, mint, and basil smell so gorgeous and fresh. By the way, if you're not a licorice candy fan, don't worry! This doesn't taste like black licorice at all. It's herbal and naturally sweet and unbelievably silky. It's great for irritated throats and those "blah" days that make you want to stay in bed. It's one of my favorite things ever, and I keep a jar of it in the cabinet year-round.

You will need:  (Please note that all the ingredients are in dried form)

  • 1  1/4 cups licorice root
  • 1 cup peppermint leaves
  • 1/8  cup fennel seeds
  • 1/8 cup basil leaves

Steps:

  1. Mix all ingredients in an airtight storage container.
  2. To make the tea, heat water to about 180°, or close to boiling but not quite there. (It's a forgiving method, so don't feel like you have to be super exact.) Measure out 1/2 Tbsp of the tea mixture and place it in a strainer or paper filter bag.
  3. When the water is hot, pour it over the tea mixture; steep for 5-7 minutes. Sweeten if desired, although it's pretty sweet on its own!

Winter stew with vegetarian sausage, white beans, and kale (5 servings)

So far, 2018 has been mostly frigid, snowy, and blustery. (More like twenty-hibernate-teen, am I right?) Yesterday, thick, heavy snowflakes fell for thirteen hours straight in Durham, leaving a total of six inches in our front yard, although other parts of the Triangle received twice as much. It's definitely the most snow we've seen at once since we moved here in 2010.

The weight of the snow has caused widespread power outages in the area, but despite the damage, it was a beautiful snow. The rain that started the day allowed the snowflakes to cling to every branch and pine needle and leaf of the trees. I love how a thick snow creates definition and dimension that's easy to take for granted on an ordinary day, especially in the grayer parts of winter.

This type of chill and snow-blanketing calls for stew -- rich, hearty, flavorful stew that warms you up from the inside and enlivens the senses. This particular recipe is high in protein and fiber, so it's good for you, too! It cooks slowly in the crockpot, giving you time to read a book, reorganize a closet, write a hand-scripted letter, bake a pan of brownies, or whatever you love to do on a rare snowed-in day.

Click here for a printable recipe.

You will need:

  • 2 vegetarian sausages, cut into bite-sized pieces (I used Field Roast Italian)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 15-oz can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried Italian herbs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups chopped kale or spinach

Steps:

  1. Brown the sausage in a little oil in skillet over medium-heat.
  2. Place the sausage and all remaining ingredients except the kale or spinach in the bowl of a slow cooker.
  3. Cook for 6 hours on low or 3 hours on high.
  4. Add in the kale or spinach; cook on low for another hour or high for another half hour.

Next time, I'd add some chopped celery, too. I'm sure that if you're not into vegetarian sausage, you could add another can of beans or some browned mushrooms instead. This stew was just what we needed yesterday!

North African "beef" stew (4 servings)

Let's make 2018 a year of heartfelt, well-intentioned risk-taking. Let's get to know people we might have looked past before. Let's talk to neighbors we previously hadn't met. Let's take the time to learn what's going on in our communities and assist the organizations that are trying to make a difference. Let's then look beyond our zip codes to the beautiful, complicated, frustrating, joyful, always-evolving globe we all call home. Let's read and cook and eat and play outside our comfort zones.

To that end, this North African-inspired dish is an exciting way to widen your flavor horizons. The ras el hanout -- a blend that includes spices like cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice -- and the harissa paste hail from Morocco and Tunisia, enhancing the flavor of earthy root vegetables. The broth is richly-perfumed and slightly spicy but balanced by the sweetness of the currants and the herbaceous notes of the garnish. I can't say I've ever made anything quite like this before, but I'm looking forward to trying similar recipes in the near future. I took inspiration from this recipe but changed up some of the ingredients and quantities.

One note: As long as your beef substitute is vegan, this dish is vegan.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

You will need:

  • 1 - 1 1/2 lbs vegetarian beef substitute, such as Quorn, Morningstar, or Beyond Meat brand (weight will vary by brand)
    • You could also use seitan or mushrooms if you prefer!
  • 1 1/2 lbs mixed root vegetables (such as carrots, onions, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, or rutabagas), chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 Tbsp ras el hanout spice blend (You can find it in some grocery stores or make your own)
  • 2 tsp harissa paste (Trader Joe's has a great blend or you can also DIY)
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/8 cup currants or chopped dried apricots
  • fresh parsley, mint, and/or cilantro

Steps:

  1. Using a stockpot, brown the "beef" according to package directions. (The brand I used needed a little oil over medium heat for 10 minutes.) Remove from stockpot and set aside. Cut into smaller pieces if needed once the beef substitute has cooled.
  2. Turn heat to medium low and add 2 Tbsp olive oil to the same stockpot. Add in the root vegetables and garlic; cook and stir for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are slightly softened but not browned.
  3. Add in the ginger, ras el hanout, and harissa. Cook and stir for 2 minutes.
  4. Add in the wine to deglaze the pan; cook and stir for another 2 minutes.
  5. Add in the cinnamon stick and broth; increase heat to bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once the mixture is boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let it simmer for 30-35 minutes, adding more liquid if it boils down too quickly.
  6. Once the vegetables are just barely fork-tender, add in the currants and simmer for another 10 minutes. Then add the beef substitute back in.
  7. Serve garnished with chopped fresh herbs. You can serve it over cooked rice or couscous or with a side of naan, pita, or chapati bread.

Yes, this recipe calls for some ingredients that may be a little tougher to find and it includes a long list of steps, but it really isn't difficult. A little bit of searching will reward you with a decadently-scented stew that fills your belly and home with flavor.

To purposeful, enthusiastic, compassionate risks in 2018!