Kale, apple, and pomegranate salad with spicy maple pecans (4+ servings)

I have a pal who thinks she hates kale, once describing it as tasting like shattered dreams. Every time she pronounces "kale," she spits the word out of her mouth with disgust, wrinkling her nose and glaring at me with disapproval.

(If looks could kale.)

And no, before you criticize, I'm not a kale chauvinist; I mean I love it, but I'm not one to get in your face about it. It's healthy, satisfying, and versatile, and it makes me happy. It's my kale-iwick, you might say. 

(I also enjoy terrible puns.)

But I'd like to think that this salad could turn even my dubious pal into a fan. It's topped with tangy cranberries, sweet apples, salty feta, and toasty-spicy pecans, so what's not to like? The kale is only a conduit for those embellishments anyway.

So this one goes out to my skeptical friend. Give it a shot and tell me what you think. Then kale me... maybe? 

Click here for printable version.

Adapted from VegetarianTimes.com

You will need:

Spicy maple pecans

  • 1/2 cup pecan pieces
  • 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • ground chipotle or cayenne pepper to taste

Vinaigrette (Note: I like my salads lightly dressed, so you might find you need more vinaigrette than I prefer. You can always double the quantities below and then save any remaining dressing for another purpose later.)

  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • a dash of onion powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Salad

  • 1 12-oz. bunch curly kale, washed, de-stemmed, and chopped
  • 1 large firm apple, cored and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese (If you live in the Triangle and can get some of Prodigal Farms' goat feta, I highly recommend it!)

Steps

  1. First, make the pecans so they have a bit of time to cool. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Toss pecans in a small bowl with syrup, oil, salt, and chipotle or cayenne (or hot sauce, even). Spread the pecans on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for about 12 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the pecans smell good and toasty. Set aside to cool.
  2. Use a small jar to shake up the vinaigrette ingredients. Take it easy on the salt since the feta will make the salad salty on its own. Set the vinaigrette aside.
  3. Place kale in a large serving bowl. Drizzle the vinaigrette over top and use your hands to massage (yes, kale likes to be pampered) the dressing into the greens briefly. Then add the apple, pomegranate seeds, feta, and pecans and toss gently to combine.

This salad keeps well in the fridge for a couple days!

Autumn farro salad with maple vinaigrette (2+ servings)

Have you tried farro? Made from hulled grains of three ancient forms of wheat, cooked farro remains chewy and soaks up flavors easily. It provides a solid dose of protein and fiber and can stand in for quinoa or rice in many dishes. Whole-grain farro requires pre-soaking and a longer cook time, but semi-pearled farro cooks up in about the same time as rice. It can be cooked in the same way as pasta -- in boiling water until al dente and then drained. Follow package directions for the best results.

This particular version was based on a recipe from The Gluten-Free Goddess, although using farro instead of quinoa took away its gluten-free status! I wanted a firm, nutty grain that could stand up to the chilly-weather flavors of the other ingredients. Here's my spin on her recipe:

Click here for a printable recipe.

You will need:

  • 1 cup dry farro, cooked in broth and cooled
  • About a cup of baby spinach or other baby greens, roughly chopped
  • 1 large pear or apple, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • A handful of dried cranberries (If you can find the orange-flavored variety, they're especially delicious here!)
  • 1/4 cup toasted chopped pecans
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar (or something similarly mild)
  • 1 tsp pure maple syrup
  • salt and pepper

Steps:

  1. Place the farro, greens, fruit, and pecans in a large serving bowl.
  2. Add the oil, vinegar, maple syrup, and salt and pepper to taste to a jar with a lid. Cover and shake to combine.
  3. Pour the dressing over the farro mixture and toss gently to combine. Serve at room temperature as a main dish or a side salad.

This goes well with pita chips, especially Trader Joe's cranberry and pumpkin seed version!

Spanakorizo with white beans (4 servings)

If you're trying to cook plant-based meals more often, Robin Robertson's One-Dish Vegan is an excellent resource. Filled with easy, creative, and filling recipes, it provides a variety of animal-free ideas that won't bust your budget or use up an entire evening in the kitchen. The recipe below comes from the book, and I already can't wait to make it again. The starchy rice and creamy beans work together to make a surprisingly silky, substantial dish, and the flavors of lemon, dill, and oregano brighten things up. Enjoy this Greek-inspired recipe tonight!

Click here for a printable recipe.

You will need:

  • 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups dry long-grain brown rice
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • ground black pepper
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 3 cups vegetable broth (use a gluten-free broth to make this Celiac-friendly)
  • 4 cups chopped fresh spinach (thick stems removed)
  • 15-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves
  • zest of half a lemon
  • 1/4 tsp dried dill

Steps: 

  1. Add the oil, rice, onion powder, oregano, salt and pepper, nutmeg, and broth to a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-high until the mixture boils; reduce to low, cover, and simmer 25 minutes.
  2. After 25 minutes, stir in the spinach and beans; continue cooking for about 10 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed.
  3. Fold in the mint, lemon zest, and dill; allow to stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve hot.

Savory slow-cooked beans (8+ servings)

Happy Easter, readers! I've risen from obscurity to bring you another delicious vegetarian recipe.

If you have a slow cooker, you know it's a magical thing. You just load in the ingredients, set the time and temperature, and go about your day, returning to find a delicious, flavorful meal hours later. Although I tend to immediately think of soups and chilis when I want to use my slow cooker, I've found that beans are another easy go-to option for my Crockpot. This recipe can be customized in infinite ways, and the tender, savory beans can then be used in many different recipes or served as is. These beans freeze beautifully and reheat nicely, too.

Click here for a printable recipe.

You will need:

Basic requirements

  • 1 lb dry black beans, pinto beans, or other similarly-sized beans, picked through for debris
  • 1 quart vegetable broth
  • 1 jar (15-16 oz) salsa, any variety
  • 1 tsp salt

Optional flavor boosters:

  • 1 bay leaf
  • a palmful of dried herbs and/or spices: oregano, cumin, chili powder, cinnamon, cocoa powder, chipotle powder, paprika, etc.
  • liquid smoke
  • hot sauce
  • chopped onion, carrot, celery, and/or potato
  • minced garlic
  • halved olives
  • tomato paste
  • olive oil

Secret final ingredient (after beans are cooked):

  • a splash of lime juice

Steps:

  1. Place the four basic ingredients in the bowl of a slow cooker.
  2. Add in as many ingredients as you like from the "optional flavor boosters" above, customizing add-ins to your own taste. (I love smoky beans, so I almost always add smoked paprika and liquid smoke. I love the richness a glug of olive oil adds, and if I use an onion, I usually keep it in big pieces to avoid overpowering the beans' flavor.)
  3. Give everything a stir and set the slow cooker for 9 hours on low.
  4. At the end of the cooking time, add in the lime juice. If you want to add a handful of chopped fresh herbs (cilantro is especially nice), do that now, too.
  5. Serve the beans in any way you like! (See some options below.) If you're serving them as-is, you might want to add some more salt. If you're using the beans as part of another recipe, you probably don't need more salt.

These beans can be used in a huge variety of ways. Here are some suggestions:

  • Make burrito bowls (as in the last picture above) by serving the beans on top of brown rice with roasted corn, chopped avocado, and any toppings you like (sour cream, cheese, green onions, cilantro, etc.).
  • Serve them alongside scrambled eggs, more salsa, and tortillas for a savory breakfast or brunch dish.
  • Blend them into soup for a light and quick meal.
  • Fold them into enchiladas.
  • Add them to your favorite chili recipe.
  • Use them in a potluck salad.
  • Make a spicy casserole.
  • Turn them into tacos.

If you don't like spicy heat, you could make these with a mild salsa or even substitute a can of crushed tomatoes for the salsa. At less than $1.00 a serving, you can't beat the ease and convenience of this recipe.

Cranpearry sauced punch

Just in time for the holidays -- here's a delicious cocktail! Our guests enjoyed these on Thanksgiving, but they're perfect for any festive gathering this time of year. (And thanks again to Chris for the name! I owe you one of these!)

For each serving, you will need:

Steps:

  1. Add the vodka, brandy, and cranberry juice cocktail to a shaker and mix.
  2. Pour over ice, top with ginger ale if desired, and add an orange wedge and cloves.

Vegetarian Thanksgiving side dishes roundup

Thanksgiving is only a week away, and if you're still looking for some tasty, meat-free side dishes, I've got you covered, friends. Below is a collection of some of my favorite side dishes, just in time for the holidays. It just so happens that all are gluten-free, unless otherwise noted!

Vegan

Vegetarian

Won't you give thanks by liking the MainlyVeggie Facebook page?

Spanakopita stuffed potatoes (4 servings)

Spanakopita, much like my last name, isn't as difficult to pronounce as it would seem at first glance. Pronounced "span-uh-co-pih-tuh," this flaky Greek pastry is stuffed with cheese, onions, and spinach, a heavenly combination. In this Eating Well remix, the pastry's stuffing gets cozy with the fluffy insides of a crisply-baked potato. Melty feta and creamy potatoes? This girl couldn't get much happier.

I halved the original recipe since I needed only four servings, and I swapped onion powder for the chopped onion to mollify my drama-bent insides. I also didn't reduce the oven temperature for the second round of baking, since I like my feta extra golden, but if your oven runs hot, you might want to. The only drawback of this recipe is budgeting enough time to bake the potatoes, allow them to cool, and then bake them again. When this girl wants potatoes, she wants them NOW!

I like to imagine Tina Belcher pronouncing it "spanakopit-uhhhhhh."

Click here for a printable recipe!

You will need:

  • 2 medium russet potatoes (8-10 oz each), scrubbed
  • 1/2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 cups chopped spinach or other greens (thawed and drained thoroughly if frozen)
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp onion powder (preferably toasted onion powder, if you can find it)
  • 3 Tbsp part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • salt and pepper

Steps:

  1. Preheat over to 400°F.
  2. Use a fork to pierce each potato several times. When oven is up to temperature, place the potatoes directly on the center rack and bake until tender. (This could be anywhere from 50-75 minutes. Spuds can be unpredictable.)
  3. While the potatoes bake, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the spinach/greens and garlic to the pan. Cook and stir for a few minutes until the greens cook down and get soft. Add in the oregano and onion powder and stir to combine. Remove from heat.
  4. Once the potatoes can be easily pieced with a knife, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool. Keep the oven on.
  5. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle with an oven mitt, cut them in half lengthwise and scoop the insides out into a bowl, leaving a bit of flesh on the skins so they hold their shape. Place the empty skins in a baking dish and set aside for now.
  6. To the bowl of fluffy potato insides, add the ricotta, the feta, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir and mash until the potatoes are relatively smooth. (I did fine with a wooden spoon.) Fold in the cooked greens.
  7. Stuff each potato half with a quarter of the spinach-potato-feta filling. (Don't be surprised when your potatoes are stuffed full enough to threaten toppling over!) Return the stuffed potato halves to the oven and bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the feta is golden brown on top.

Pair these with a crisped-up Field Roast sausage or a side of meatless meatballs and you're good to go!

Quinoa, kale, and parsley salad with lentils, pomegranate seeds, and walnuts (4 servings)

Wait. Wait a second. Was the Vegan Month of Food (affectionately known as Vegan MoFo) always in September? I thought it was October! I swear it was always October. It doesn't matter much either way, seeing as I totally forgot about it until a couple days ago. Two out-of-state weddings plus a new job have made the last six weeks very, very busy for this humble food blogger. But it's great to be back, whether this is the vegans' month for celebrating or not!

I'm not vegan myself, but I do cook vegan meals anywhere from two to five times a week and I'm always searching for new recipes to test out. When I saw this audaciously-hued salad on Kale Me Maybe last week, I knew I had to have it. The ruby red and emerald green colors sold me first, but then I read the list of show-stopping superfoods and was absolutely convinced I had to prioritize this one. What's not to like?

I kept all of Carina's original ingredients but doubled the recipe, although I changed up some of the ingredients' proportions. I tend to like my salads dressed lightly, so I used a lot less dressing than the original recipe suggested. Of course, it's all up to personal preference! If you're a fan of tangy-sweet flavor combinations and chewy-crunchy texture pairings, you will not be disappointed by this one -- I promise!

You will need:

  • 1/2 cup dry quinoa
  • 1/2 cup dry brown lentils
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces, toasted
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • juice from half a lemon

Steps:

  1. In separate saucepans, cook the quinoa and lentils in broth or water, according to package directions. Be sure to not overcook either. Once they're each just tender (my quinoa took about 20 minutes and the lentils took 40), set them aside to cool.
  2. In the meantime, rinse, de-stem, and dry the kale and parsley. Measure out 2 cups of kale and 1 cup of parsley leaves and place them in a large serving bowl. Use a pair of kitchen shears to finely mince both the kale and parsley. 
  3. Once the quinoa has cooled, toss it with the kale and parsley. Then, add in the lentils, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, oil, and lemon juice, and then season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature as a main dish or side.