Zafrani Chai

zafrani chai recipe

There are certain comfort foods from childhood that you just can't replace.  For me, South Asian-style masala chai is one of them.  Here, I'm sharing how to make authentic masala tea with one unique twist: the addition of saffron.  I got the idea when I met with the founder of Heray Spice and we did a taste test with saffron from his family's farm in Afghanistan.  I'd seen YouTube videos of saffron masala tea (or zafrani chai) from Pakistan and put it together with the way that I typically make masala chai.  Here I use coconut sugar instead of white sugar because I like its caramel taste and it reminds me of the less processed sugar varieties (like jaggery) that you'll find in India and Pakistan.  I have masala chai all the time with nondairy milk, and it's good, but it's almost a totally different beverage.  So here I've given you the traditional whole milk preparation as well as suggestions for going dairy-free. 

Zafrani Chai recipe
makes 2 small servings

1 cup water
1/2 cinnamon stick
5 cardamom pods
2 cloves
3 black peppercorns
pinch of saffron
2 black tea bags (or 4 teaspoons loose leaf black tea)
1 cup whole milk (see directions below to sub nondairy milk)
2-3 teaspoons coconut sugar

1. In a small pot heat water with cinnamon stick, cardamom, cloves, peppercorns and saffron.  Let simmer on low for 10 minutes.

2. Add black tea and milk and let simmer on low an additional 10 minutes.  Strain and serve in two small tea cups or glasses garnished with additional saffron threads.

Note: Typically masala chai is made with dairy milk that is simmered along with the spices and tea.  However, when I've tried this method with nondairy alternatives, I find they tend to get a weird consistency and separate.  If you want to make this dairy-free, simmer the spices, tea and sugar with water only and then add your non-dairy milk of choice and let it heat up but not boil.  My favorite kind is actually soy milk (creamier) but you can also try almond or coconut milk.

Watermelon Chaat

watermelon fruit chaat

Watermelon Chaat
serves 8

Chaat is a blanket term in Indian and Pakistani cuisine that refers to all kinds of street food and snacks.  Fruit chaat is often simply cut fruit, sometimes with a sweetened syrup and even sometimes with hot and savory spices.  For this chaat, I skipped the savory spices to make it more Americanized and topped with lime, honey, and black sesame seeds.  Fruit salads can be bland or have too many mismatched fruits so this salad uses a few of my favorite decadent fruits like cherries and blackberries along with more affordable watermelon.  

6 cups cubed watermelon
2 cups pitted cherries, cut in half
2 cups blackberries
1 tablespoon honey
2 limes, juiced
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

1. Assemble a platter with the watermelon, cherries, and blackberries.  Whisk together honey and lime juice and drizzle over fruit.  Sprinkle with black sesame seeds.

Spinach Gomae

spinach gomae recipe

Spinach Gomae recipe
serves 6

This Japanese-style preparation of greens has become one of my go-to ways to cook up a batch of greens for the week.  This recipe is traditionally made with spinach, I use all kinds of greens, especially the tops of veggies like beets, turnips, and radishes that come in my CSA. I'll cook thin stems like spinach but skip woodier ones like kale or collards. Although boiling seems to have gone out of fashion in the health-sphere, this method tenderizes the greens while removing their bitterness and perhaps increasing the bioavailability of some nutrients.  If you don't have a suribachi or mortar and pestle.  You can buzz up the sesame seeds in a spice grinder or blender or simply leave them whole.

2 lbs spinach or leafy greens, washed
4 tablespoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted in a pan
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon mirin
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1. Bring a large pot of salted water up to a boil.  Add spinach/greens, pushing down and let cook for 2 minutes only.  Strain and run under cold water.  Squeeze out extra liquid and place on a cutting board.  Run your knife through it a few times and place on a platter.

2. Take toasted sesame seeds in a suribachi or mortar and pestle.  Grind sesame seeds until they crumble but you still have a little texture.  Add maple, mirin, tamari and sesame oil and mix together.  Drizzle over spinach to taste.

Ingredient notes:

*Mirin is a Japanese cooking wine.  I buy Eden Foods brand at Whole Foods.  Many cheaper brands are often filled with corn syrup.  If you can't find it, I'd add an extra teapsoon of maple syrup and a teaspoon of rice vinegar.

*Tamari is a Japanese-style soy sauce that's gluten-free.  Use any kind of soy sauce you like.  If you are watching your sodium, simply use less or try a low-sodium version or Coconut Aminos.  

Grilled Fingerling Potato Salad

grilled fingerling potato salad recipe

Grilled Fingerling Potato Salad recipe
serves 4-6 as a side dish

Grilling potatoes is a great way to modernize the potluck classic of potato salad.  Instead of a cold, creamy dish, we’ll serve this warm and amp up the smokiness of grilled potatoes and the brightness of the vinaigrette. Try using a grill pan or roasting the potatoes at 425 for 25 minutes if you are cooking indoors.

1 1/2 lbs fingerling potatoes
1/2 lb haricots verts or green beans
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 extra virgin olive oil
juice from 1 lemon (1/4 cup)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
salt and pepper

1. Bring a large pot of salted water up to a boil.  Add fingerlings and cook until just barely cooked through—you actually want them slightly undercooked.  Use a fine mesh strainer or tongs to remove potatoes so you still have simmering water.  Rinse potatoes quickly in cold water to cool down until you can handle them and cut them in half vertically.

2. Whisk together vinaigrette: combine grapeseed oil, olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, garlic, oregano, mustard and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Toss about 1/3 of the dressing.

3. To simmering water, add haricots verts or green beans and let cook for 2-3 minutes until just tender.  Drain and rinse under cold water, shake off all excess and put in a serving bowl.

4. Grill marinated potatoes cut side down until grill marks appear, about 3 minutes.  Remove to serving bowl and toss with haricots verts and about 1/2 of the remaining dressing.  Taste and season for more salt and add more dressing as desired.  Save any extra for salads or other items for the grill.

This recipe is part of the Here's to Your Health event series sponsored by Here and presented at Mariano's in Summer 2018.  Find more details here

Oat Milk


Oat Milk recipe
makes 3 cups

Oat milk is a more sustainable and affordable alternative to almond milk that's been popping up at a lot of coffee shops lately.  Oats require less water to grow than almonds and are a Midwestern crop, which means I can source them locally if I like.  You can use either steel cut oats or rolled oats to make oat milk--I chose steel cut oats here because you are less likely to overprocess them in the blender (and make a slimy milk) and the remaining oat pulp is easy to fold into any kind of oatmeal for the next few days.  The oat milk and pulp will taste best if consumed within 3 days--store both in the fridge.  Soaking the oats for at least 30 minutes but up to overnight also helps make sure the final product is not slimy.

1 cup steel cut oats, soaked for 30 minutes in water
3 cups filtered water

helpful tool: a nut milk bag (I use this one*)
optional flavorings: pinch of sea salt, 1-2 teaspoons maple syrup, 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1. Strain and rinse soaked steel cut oats in a fine mesh strainer.  Combine in the blender with 3 cups filtered water and blend on medium for 10-15 seconds.  (Don't worry about it being totally smooth; overprocessing can make it slimy.)

2. Strain mixture through the fine mesh strainer into a bowl and remove and store oat pulp.  Pass oat milk through the nut milk bag into a quart mason jar (or whatever you'd like to store in it) to get the finer pieces of pulp out.  Store in the fridge for 3 days.

*affiliate link

DIY Flavored Sparkling Water

DIY flavored sparkling water recipe

DIY Flavored Sparkling Water recipes

Save yourself the effort of hauling a case of LaCroix up the stairs and start making your own naturally infused sparkling waters!  Fresh juices or even pureed fruit makes a great base and I also like to used brewed herbal teas like mint, peach rooibos, or hibiscus.  Fresh berries, citrus and fresh herbs all make great garnishes.  Typically 1 ounce of mixer to 4 ounces of club soda or sparkling water is a good ratio--use about 1/2 ounce for super tart ingredients like lemon and lime.  Here are a few recipes:

Grapefruit Sparkling Water
1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
4 ounces club soda
slice of grapefruit

1. Mix in a glass and top with ice.

Lemongrass Lemon Sparkling Water
1 ounce brewed lemongrass tea
4 ounces club soda
slice of lemon

1. Mix in a glass and top with ice.

Mint Mojito Sparkling Water
1/2 ounce lime juice
4 ounces club soda
1 sprig of mint

1. Mix in a glass at top with ice.  Tear or muddle the mint to get more of the flavor infused.

Kitchari Jars

kitchari jars recipe for the instant pot

Kitchari Jars for the Instant Pot recipe
makes 1 jar which makes 3-4 servings cooked
Multiply for however many jars you'd like to make

Kitchari is an Indian home staple recipe and one of the foundational foods in Ayurveda.  It's nutritious and easy to digest and typically seasoned very lightly.  I often call it "Indian congee" to help people picture the desired consistency (like a thick porridge) as well as ways to customize it.  Kitchari is the perfect dish to make in your Instant Pot because pressure cooking really reduces the cooking time and makes it even more digestible.  These jars are a way to cut down prep even more; measure your ingredients all in one go and then have these jars in the pantry for months so you have a quick Instant Pot meal ready to assemble. These are the mason jars I buy on Amazon* as well as the mini plastic bags

for each jar:
3/4 cup white basmati rice
1/2 cup red lentils (masoor malka dal, link here)
1/2 cup mung dal (split yellow lentils, link here)

for each spice packet:
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon hing powder (also called asofoetida but can substitute granulated garlic)
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt (you can season to taste as well)

To make jars:

Fill mason jar with rice, red lentils, and mung dal.  Take a small plastic bag and fill with spice mixture.  Roll or fold the bag to fit in the top of the jar and then secure the lid.  

To cook:

1 Kitchari Jar
2 tablespoons ghee, grapeseed oil, or coconut oil (I prefer ghee)
2 cups chopped vegetables like zucchini, spinach, tomato, onion, cauliflower, etc (this is optional)
5 cups water
juice from 1 lemon
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (optional)

1. Open jar and remove spice packet and set aside.  Pour other contents of jar into a fine mesh strainer and rice thoroughly in cold water until the water runs clear.  

2. Turn on Instant Pot to Saute mode and heat ghee or oil.  Add spice packet and stir vigorously for 30 seconds.  You want to bloom the spices but you don't want them to burn.  Immediately add the chopped vegetables, if using, and then add the water and rinsed rice, lentils, and mung beans.  

3. Hit cancel to turn off Saute mode and secure lid (sealing).  Hit Manual to turn on High Pressure mode and set the timer for 10 minutes.  When timer goes off, let it natural pressure release for 15 minutes, then quick release until the pressure comes down.  Give the pot a little shake (to pop any trapped bubbles) then open lid.  

4. Season with lemon juice and additional salt if necessary.  Garnish with cilantro.  

Stovetop Method:

1. Heat ghee in a large pot. Add spice packet and stir vigorously for 30 seconds.  Immediately add the chopped vegetables if using and then add the water and rinsed rice, lentils, and mung beans.  Add 2 extra cups of water (for evaporation).

2. Simmer on low for 30-40 minutes or until lentils and rice fully cooked and kind of mushy.  If you have more delicate veggies like spinach, you can add them about half way through cooking.

3. Season with lemon juice and additional salt if necessary.  Garnish with cilantro.

FYI here's a pic of the final product:

kitchari instant pot recipe

*affiliate link

Cocoa and Coconut Energy Bites

cocoa and coconut energy bites recipe

Cocoa and Coconut Energy Bites
makes about 20

I'm constantly making different kinds of nut/seed/dried fruit energy bites based on what I have in my pantry at that time.  This coconut, pecan, and chocolate version is one that I have been making lately.  Chocolate is my go-to dessert, so this is a more nutritious option for when I'm craving a sweet bite.  As with all treats like this, you can substitute what you have on hand.  Play with the ratios if you like energy bites sweeter, less sweet, more chocolatey, etc.

1 cup pecans
2 cups medjool dates, pitted
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (plus about 1/2 cup more for rolling)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/4 cup cocoa powder
pinch of sea salt

1. In a food processor, pulse pecans until you get a coarse meal.  Then add dates, coconut, vanilla, coconut oil, cocoa powder and sea salt and blend until you get an evenly incorporated sticky dough.  

2. Spread coconut for rolling on a plate.  Roll tablespoons-sized balls of dough in your hand and roll in the coconut to coat.  Repeat will the rest of the dough and put in refrigerated for 2-3 hours to chill.  Store these in the fridge and eat cold (they taste best this way!)

Instant Ramen Jars with Miso and Veggies

instant ramen jar vegan recipe

I've seen this Instant Ramen Jar idea floating around the internet, so I decided to create my own version based on my favorite way to make ramen at home: with ginger, miso, mushrooms, and spinach.  In my googling, I found this comprehensive tutorial on other fancy pants variations from Serious Eats.  My version is very similar to Kenji's vegetarian version, although it's a bit more simplified.  (He also adds additional flavorings like tahini and pickled ginger which would probably be phenomenal.)  Any wide mouth 12-16-ounce glass tupperware or mason jar would work, but I like these wide mouth gasket jars.* 

I've heard my students sing the praises of Better than Bouillon vegetable broth base before, so I gave it a try for this recipe.  Not the cleanest label ever, but much better than other bouillons out there and, of course, better than the powdery packets that typically come with ramen.  If you want to skip it, I'd just amp up the miso paste and ginger.  Feel free to double the noodle quantity and/or the tofu to make this more substantial if you typically like a bigger lunch.

Instant Ramen Jar with Miso and Veggies recipe
Makes 4 jars

4 blocks rice ramen noodles (10 ounces; I buy Lotus Foods)
4 teaspoons low sodium Better than Boullion vegetable base
4 teaspoons white miso paste
2 teaspoons Sriracha (or to taste)
2 teaspoons grated ginger
7 ounces (1/2 of a block) firm or extra firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 large handfuls baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 3.5 ounce container of shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
4 scallions, thinly sliced

1. Cook your ramen noodles according to the package directions until very al dente, about 2 minutes in just boiled water.  You want them to be fully cooked but not already breaking apart since we will be adding more hot water when we serve them.  Drain and rinse in cold water and shake off any extra water.

2. Assemble your jars in any roughly 16-ounce container.  Put 1 teaspoon bouillon base, 1 teaspoon miso paste, 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha, and 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger on the bottom of each jar.  Then split the cooked noodles, cubed tofu, baby spinach, sliced mushrooms and scallions equally among the 4 jars.  Seal and store in the fridge for 3-4 days.

To serve: Add boiling water (from a kettle or your office water cooler hot water tap--the hotter the better) to cover all the ingredients.  At this point, I swirl my spoon at the bottom of the jar to break up the flavoring pastes and incorporate them.  Then reseal the jar and let it sit for 2 minutes.  Uncover and eat straight out of the jar or pour into a bowl if you prefer.

*affiliate link

Carrot Cake Oatmeal

carrot cake oatmeal recipe

Carrot Cake Oatmeal recipe
serves 4

This oatmeal recipe incorporates the flavors of carrot cake--sweet carrots, chewy raisins, warming spices and crunchy walnuts.  By simmering the carrots before adding the oats, I make sure that I don't get a raw or too vegetal taste from them in the final dish.  I like the carrots grated (like on a box grater) instead of the pre-shredded bags that you can buy because they are thinner and blend into the oatmeal better.  I've found that oatmeal is very personal, so feel free to add more or less liquid depending on your preference. Make one morning and have leftovers to reheat for the rest of the week.

3 cups water
4 medium carrots, grated (you should get 2 cups)
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of sea salt
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup raisins
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Bring 3 cups water and carrots up to a simmer and let cook 10 minutes.  

2. Add cinnamon, ginger, sea salt, rolled oats, raisins, and almond milk.  Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the liquid is absorbed. Serve topped with chopped walnuts and more raisins or almond milk if you like.

Shakshuka with Feta

shakshuka with feta recipe

Shakshuka with Feta recipe
serves 4

Shakshuka is a Middle Eastern breakfast dish and I have yet to meet someone who doesn't like it.  I make this for me and my husband for weekend brunches, but you can also make a double batch and use a 9X13 baking pan and feed a crowd.  Shakshuka is really defined by the eggs on top so you can't really skip them, but you can easily leave out the feta if you are dairy-free or use chopped kalamata olives instead if you like that salty, briny bite.  You can easily have this for dinner too--just include a piece of whole grain pita or sourdough to sop up that spicy sauce.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon red chile flake
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 cup crumbled goat or sheep's milk feta
4 eggs
Parsley or cilantro to garnish
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat olive oil in a large high-side skillet.  Add onion, bell pepper, garlic and a generous sprinkle of salt.  Cook for 5-7 minutes until veggies have softened.

2. Add paprika, cumin, turmeric, red chile flake, and crushed tomatoes. Simmer for 10 minutes to let flavors blend. Preheat Broiler on high.

3. Stir feta into tomato sauce and pour into an 8x8 metal or cast iron baking dish.  Make 4 divots into the sauce with the back of a spoon and crack an egg into each. Broil for 12 minutes or until eggs are at desired level of doneness.  Garnish with parsley, cilantro, or extra feta.

Pan-fried Sweet Potato Cakes

pan fried sweet potato cakes with sriracha cashew sauce recipe

Pan-fried Sweet Potato Cakes with Sriracha Cashew Dipping Sauce recipe
serves 2 as an entree or 6 as an appetizer

After shredding up your sweet potatoes in the food processor, these cakes are a breeze to put together.  Although these look a little like latkes, the inspiration for these cakes was actually pakoras, deep-fried fritters made out of shredded vegetables and held together with chickpea flour (also called besan or garbanzo bean flour).  Chickpea flour is simply ground up chickpeas that can be used in savory recipes often in the place of white flour; just be sure to fully cook it, as raw bean flour tastes gross.  Raw cashews make a creamy dipping sauce while also adding extra protein and good fat so this can really be a balanced weeknight meal.  And sriracha is added because it make everything taste better.

for sweet potato cakes:
2 medium sweet potatoes
1/2 cup of cilantro, finely chopped
1 bunch of scallions, white and dark green parts finely chopped
1 cup chickpea flour (also called garbanzo bean flour)
generous sprinkle of salt and pepper
avocado oil to pan-fry

for dipping sauce:
1 cup of raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes and drained
1/4 cup Sriracha hot sauce
1/2 cup cold water

1. Peel sweet potatoes shred using the food processor or a box grater.

2. Combine shredded sweet potatoes, cilantro, scallions, chickpea flour, and salt in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.  The mixture should hold together when you squeeze it in your hand.

3. Heat a little avocado oil in a large non-stick or cast iron skillet.  Make a test cake: take 2 tablespoons of the mixture and press together compactly.  Flatten into a freeform patty about 1/4” thick. Pan-fry the cake for 2 minutes on each side until golden brown and fully cooked.  Remove from pan and taste for salt. Add more salt to the rest of the mixture if necessary.

4. Make the rest of the cakes and pan-fry them in batches.  Remove to a platter.

5. Make the dipping sauce: Drain cashews from their soaking water and add to the blender with Sriracha and cold water.  Blend until smooth, adding more water if necessary. Serve sweet potato cakes on a platter alongside a small bowl of the cream.

Everyday Mapo Tofu

vegan mapo tofu recipe

Everyday Vegan Mapo Tofu Recipe
serves 3-4

Spicy, Szechuan Mapo Tofu is probably my favorite way to eat tofu.  Soft, slippery pieces of tofu are dripping in fiery ginger and garlic spiked chili oil that's perfectly soaked up by white rice.  The one problem?  That delicious sauce is like 90% cheap, inflammatory oil, and you eat a LOT of it when you get Mapo Tofu.  I still spring for the authentic version when I'm in Chicago's Chinatown (my go-to is Lao Szechuan), but for home, I wanted to create a lighter and easier to make everyday version.  I also add some roasted eggplant and spinach to this dish (not traditional!) to make it more of a meal-in-a-pot, rather than needing to make a variety of dishes for a balanced meal.  Since this sauce is broth-based (aka water-based) instead of oil-based, it does have less depth and a different texture that the original but I find that it hits the spot when the Mapo Tofu craving hits.  See more ingredient notes below the recipe.  

for roasted eggplant:
1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
drizzle of avocado or grapeseed oil
sprinkle of salt

for Mapo Tofu:
3-4 tablespoons chili oil
1 bunch of scallions, ends trimmed and the rest thinly sliced
3 tablespoons minced ginger
6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1.5 cups mushroom broth (can sub vegetable broth or water)
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons black bean garlic sauce (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground szechuan peppercorns, separated
1 14-oz brick of soft tofu, cut into 3/4" cubes
2 tablespoons of arrowroot
2 handfuls baby spinach

1. Toss cubed eggplant with oil and salt and roast on a parchment-lined sheet tray at 400 for 25-30 minutes.  (I get this going first, then prep the rest of the ingredients--by the time the eggplant is done, the rest of the mapo tofu is too!)

2. Heat chili oil in a large pot.  Add scallions, ginger, and garlic and let sizzle for 1-2 minutes, stirring.  Add water, tamari, mirin, black bean garlic sauce, and 1/8 teaspoon of Szechuan peppercorns.  Bring up to a simmer.  Add tofu cubes and simmer until eggplant is done.  

3. Taste sauce (it will be very watery) for seasoning and add more tamari, mirin, or chili oil if desired.  Dissolve 1 tablespoons of arrowroot in 1 tablespoons of cold water in a small cup, and add this mixture to the boiling chili sauce.  Stir with a wooden spoon--you'll notice the sauce starts to thicken immediately and goes a little cloudy.  Keep stirring for 1 minute until its well mixed in.  Add roasted eggplant and spinach and stir to combine, being careful not to break up the tofu too much.  Serve with brown or white rice.

Ingredient Notes:

I was able to get all of these items at Whole Foods in the international aisle and the spice aisle, but an Asian grocery store would have them as well.  A lot of Asian pantry items can be high in sugar and additives, so choose the best options that work for you.

  • TOFU: use soft tofu if you can find it.  It soaks up the sauce and has a silky texture.  If you can't find it, get silken tofu or firm tofu depending on your preference for slippery or chewy tofu (just don't get extra firm).
  • CHILI OIL: get the Asian-style chili oil that's infused with ginger and garlic or make your own to use a higher quality oil.
  • TAMARI: I always have tamari on hand, but any kind of soy sauce will do.
  • MIRIN: A Japanese cooking wine that adds acidity and sweetness.  A more common Chinese cooking wine would be Shoaxing, but like the tamari, I always have mirin on hand.  I like Eden Organic since there is no added sugar.
  • BLACK BEAN GARLIC SAUCE: This ingredient is totally optional but it adds that fermenty, umami depth to the sauce.  I use Lee Kum Kee brand. You can try whole black garlic or black garlic puree for a more wholesome sub or just leave it out.
  • SZECHUAN PEPPERCORNS: You can get away with black pepper in this recipe, but for it to really be mapo tofu-esque, you'll want to use szechuan peppercorns.  They are more floral and tingly than black pepper (not hot spicy) and provide a "numbing" sensation that's crucial to this dish, traditionally.  I picked some up at a spice store, but I've also seen them with the pepper grinders at Whole Foods.

Smoky Beet Sliders

smoky beet sliders recipe veggie burger

Smoky Beet Sliders recipe
makes 12 sliders or 4 servings

This recipe has a number of steps but it's actually not too hard to put together, especially if you make use of your food processor--it can do everything from grating the beets to slicing the cucumbers to putting the actual burgers together.  Plus I think it's worth it since these are my favorite veggie burgers EVER (and I've heard from some of my clients that they feel the same way.) Although most of my recipes are totally plant-based, I think these burgers benefit from the addition of one egg.  It helps with the texture, but is not necessary.  If you don't eat eggs, be sure to cool your mixture completely to help it hold together and you can also try adding additional quinoa and oats if you find the mix too soft or wet.  

drizzle of avocado oil, plus more for cooking sliders
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup grated beet (from 1 peeled beet)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 cup rolled oats
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 egg (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

for serving:
pretzel slider buns or Ezekiel English muffins
feta spread (*see recipe below) or Just Garlic Mayo (vegan)
sliced Persian cucumbers

1. In a large skillet, heat oil and saute onion with a pinch of salt for 5-8 minutes or until it's softened.  Add garlic, grated beet, and smoked paprika and saute for 5 minutes more.  Remove from heat and let cook to room temperature. 

2. Pulse oats in food processor until you get a rough flour and remove to a bowl.  Add beet mixture, black beans, quinoa, egg and a generous pinch of salt to the food processor and pulse until mix and it can form a loose dough but still with some texture.  Remove to a bowl and combine with oat flour.  Cool this mixture in the freezer for 20-30 minutes or in the fridge for a few hours or overnight (This will greatly improve the texture of your sliders and help them hold together better).

3. Make a test slider: take a tablespoon of the mix and form a mini patty.  Heat your skillet with a drizzle of avocado oil and cook the patty, then taste for salt.  Add salt as necessary and form 12 sliders (I used a 1/4 cup measuring cup to make them even).  Cook in batches, about 3 minutes on each side.  Serve on buns with feta spread or vegan mayo and sliced cucumbers.

*Feta spread recipe
makes 2 cups

1 cup crumbled Greek feta
1/2 cup grassfed plain Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1. Stir ingredients together with a fork or whisk or blend in the food processor for a creamier spread. 

Spicy Tahini Hot Chocolate

spicy tahini hot chocolate vegan recipe

Spicy Tahini Hot Chocolate recipe
makes 2 small servings or 1 large serving

Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds that's popular in Middle Eastern cooking.  It's become a staple in my pantry for making creamy sauces because I love its smooth texture and high calcium content, but I often forget I have an open jar in the fridge and end up buying a new one.  So much tahini!  So I decided to use up some of my tahini by taking it into the dessert realm.  Hello Tahini Hot Chocolate.  Non-dairy milks often make very watery hot chocolate compared to fat-rich dairy milk so the addition of tahini here makes a richer and creamier beverage with a slightly nutty edge.  I love spice in my hot chocolate so I also added cinnamon, cayenne, and ground ginger, but feel free to leave out if you aren't feeling as spicy.

1 cup of unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used cashew)
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon tahini, plus more for drizzling
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of cayenne
1/4 of a 3.5 ounce chocolate bar (70% cocoa) OR 2 tablespoons of dark chocolate chips

1. In a small pot, heat milk, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of tahini, cocoa powder, maple syrup, vanilla extract, cinnamon, ground ginger, and cayenne.  Whisk until smooth.  Once heated, break apart chocolate bar and whisk in or add chocolate chips.  Taste and add more maple, tahini, or chocolate if desired.

2. Pour into 2 small tea cups or 1 mug and drizzle with a tiny extra bit of tahini if desired.

Homemade Vegetable Broth

homemade broth recipe

Homemade Vegetable Broth recipe
makes 1 quart

All ingredients are flexible, so feel free to make substitutions based on what you have on hand as long as it's similar (ex: leeks for onions, sweet potato for potato, etc).  The veggies can all be roughly chopped into about 1-inch pieces.  The longer the broth simmers, the deeper it's flavor will be.  Alternatively, you can keep a gallon bag of veggie scraps like carrot peels and onion skins in the freezer; when the bag is full, just empty it into a pot and cover with the 6 cups of water.  

I don't add salt during the simmering process to keep the broth flexible to add to other recipes like soups and ramen, but if you are sipping it plain, definitely add a pinch of high quality sea salt to your mug of warm broth.  For long-term storage, pour into 1 cup containers to freeze or into an ice cube tray so you can add just as much to a recipe as you'd like.  

Watch the how-to video for this recipe on my YouTube channel.

1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 russet potato, chopped
3 sprigs of parsley
6 cups of water (or enough to cover veggies in your pot)

optional add-ins:
1-inch piece of ginger or turmeric, chopped
1/2 cup of dried shiitake mushrooms
1-2 cups of leftover bones from a cooked chicken (if you are a meat eater)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (if adding bones)
1-2 cloves of garlic
3 black peppercorns

1. In a soup pot, add all chopped veggies and cover with water.  Bring to a simmer and let gently simmer for 45 minutes, covered or uncovered.  Don't let it boil to strongly or you'll evaporate too much water.   

Instant Pot instructions for Vegetarian version (no added bones):

1. Place all ingredients in Instant Pot and secure lid.  Turn on high pressure cooking mode and set for 10 minutes (on my model you press manual, then toggle to the number 10.  There is no start button or anything to press after setting the number 10).  The pressure will build up (you'll hear steam coming from the release valve) and once it reaches pressure the time will count down from 10. 

2. When you hear the beeping signaling that the time is up, you can press the cancel button (or let it stay on warming, the default) and let pressure come down manually for 10 minutes.  Then release the rest of the pressure manually with the valve, give the pot a shake to make sure there aren't any trapped bubbles, release the valve again, and remove lid. Strain off vegetables and serve broth or store for later.

Instant Pot instructions for version WITH added bones:

1. Place all ingredients in Instant Pot including bones and apple cider vinegar and secure lid.  Turn on high pressure cooking mode and set for 120 minutes (on my model you press manual, then toggle to the number 120.  There is no start button or anything to press after setting the number 120).  The pressure will build up (you'll hear steam coming from the release valve) and once it reaches pressure the time will count down from 120.  The lengthy cooking time is to help draw gelatin out of the bones.  If you aren't concerned with that, choose a cook time of 20-30 minutes instead. 

2. When you hear the beeping signaling that the time is up, you can press the cancel button (or let it stay on warming, the default) and let pressure come down manually for 10-20 minutes.  Then release the rest of the pressure manually with the valve, give the pot a shake to make sure there aren't any trapped bubbles, release the valve again, and remove lid. 

Instant Pot Dal Palak (Lentils with Spinach)

Instant Pot Dal Palak recipe

Instant Pot Dal Palak recipe
makes 5 cups (about 3-4 servings)

First off, this recipe is written for the Instant Pot (a combo electric pressure cooker and slow cooker that has a cult following), but you can make it in an ordinary pot on the stove, just know that your cook time will be longer. (Similarly this will work in a regular pressure cooker, just cook according to your pressure cooker's directions.) However, the Instant Pot is the perfect vessel for making beans, whole grains, soups, stews and other recipes that typically need a lot of time on the stove since it can significantly speed up the cook time and pressure cooking allows some nutrients to become more bioavailable.  You can try this method with any kind of lentil, but I like it here with mung dal (split and husked mung beans), my go-to staple for dal.

2 tablespoons of ghee or coconut oil
2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
1 large red onion, finely chopped (can use yellow or white onion)
3 roma tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon red chile flake
1 cup mung dal, rinsed very well until water runs clear (could substitute red or yellow lentils)
2 1/2 cups of water
salt to taste (I used 1/2 teaspoon of my himalayan salt)
1 5-ounce bag of baby spinach
juice from 1 lemon

1. Heat the Instant Pot on Saute with ghee or coconut oil.  When it's hot, add cumin seeds and let sizzle for about 30 seconds, then add red onion and tomato.  Let these saute and turn golden, about 5 minutes (during this time I rinse my mung dal very well).

2. Add turmeric, chile flake, and rinsed mung dal and stir to combine well.  Add water and turn off Saute mode.  Secure the lid and turn on high pressure cooking mode and set for 10 minutes (on my model you press manual, then toggle to the number 10.  There is no start button or anything to press after setting the number 10).  The pressure will build up (you'll hear steam coming from the release valve) and once it reaches pressure the time will count down from 10. 

3. When you hear the beeping signaling that the time is up, you can press the cancel button (or let it stay on warming, the default) and let pressure come down manually for 10 minutes.  Then release the rest of the pressure manually with the valve, give the pot a shake to make sure there aren't any trapped bubbles, release the valve again, and remove lid.  Stir in salt and spinach (it will wilt very quickly) and lemon juice.  Taste to season for more lemon or salt if desired.  

Notes: This recipe took me 40 minutes from start to finish, including 30 minutes total once everything was in the Instant Pot (about 10 minutes to get up to pressure, 10 minutes cooking, then 10 minutes to come down from pressure.)  You could probably get away with less cooking time, but I like my dal extra mushy with no gritty texture.  

Collard Greens and Carrots

Low FODMAP vegetable recipe

Collard Greens with Carrots recipe
serves 4 as a side

I created this recipe as a low FODMAP side dish for those in my community that follow this diet.  Regardless of what type of diet you follow, you'll like this healthy green side dish to make one of those most nutritious veggies out there--collard greens--taste tender and balanced.  Plus it cooks up in only a few minutes.  FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides And Polyols and they are a collection of short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols found in foods naturally.  They aren't unhealthy in and of themselves but some folks with digestive issues like IBS are particularly sensitive to them and doctors recommend steering clear of these foods during a flareup.  The bummer?  FODMAPS are in some of the best foods out there like onions, garlic, beets, avocado and honey.  So this recipe was created specifically with low FODMAP veggies and seasonings.

Watch the how-to video for this recipe on my YouTube channel.

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
4 carrots, peeled and sliced into coins 1/4" thick
1 bunch of collard greens, stemmed and cut into bite-sized pieces (about 1-2 inches)
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons of maple syrup
1-2 teaspoons of tamari (soy sauce)

1. Heat a large saute pan and drizzle in olive oil.  When oil starts to shimmer, add carrots and saute for 1-2 minutes.  Then add chopped collard greens and stir.  Add 2 tablespoons of water (more if necessary) to create steam to help the greens wilt and cook evenly.  Saute for about 3 minutes, longer if you want them to be softer and less bitter.  

2. Drizzle maple syrup and tamari evenly over the veggies so you don't get a clump of flavor all in one spot) and stir to combine.  Taste and add more tamari or salt if desired.  This can store in the fridge for 3 days for a side dish you can add to any meal.

Red Kuri Squash Red Curry

red kuri curry recipe

Red Kuri Squash Red Curry recipe
serves 4

Unique winter squashes like kabocha (recipe here) and red kuri make Chicago winters bearable.  There's just something so cozy about warm, creamy and vibrantly colored squash.  For this recipe, I wanted to create a meal-in-a-pot that would use up a whole squash.  If you can't find red kuri (a squash I find to be sweeter and creamier than butternut), feel free to substitute butternut, acorn, or a sugar pumpkin.  Chickpeas add protein and make this into a full meal, while broccoli adds just a touch of bitterness to make sure the squash doesn't make the dish way to sweet.  I don't use many prepared sauces or pastes but Thai curry paste is so helpful in a pinch and generally has an ultra clean label.  Fresh turmeric and ginger customize the flavor and add an immune-boosting punch, another Chicago winter essential.

1 teaspoon of coconut oil
2 teaspoons grated or minced ginger
2 teaspoons grated or minced fresh turmeric (sub 1 teaspoon ground)
3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste (I like Thai Kitchens brand)
1 15-ounce can coconut milk
1.5 cups vegetable broth
1 small red kuri squash, peeled and cut into 3/4" pieces (3 cups)
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 bunch broccoli, cut into 1-inch florets (4 cups)
1-2 limes, juiced
salt to taste

1. In a large pot with a lid, heat coconut oil on medium and saute ginger, turmeric and red curry paste for 30 seconds.  Add coconut milk and broth and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to make sure all the paste is incorporated.

2. Add cubed red kuri squash and chickpeas and return to a simmer.  Cover with the lid and simmer gently for 15 minutes or until squash is tender.

3. Stir in broccoli until just cooked (about 1 minute), and then season to taste with lime juice (I like lots!) and salt.  You can also add fresh herbs like cilantro or Thai basil or heat from chile flake or fresh green chiles.  Serve with white rice, brown rice, or flatbread.

Easy Crystallized Ginger

easy crystallized ginger recipe

Easy Crystallized Ginger recipe
makes 2 cups

Crystallized ginger is one of my favorite after dinner sweets and it makes a perfect DIY holiday gift for even a novice cook.  Typically I'm a big advocate for natural, less processed sweeteners like maple syrup or honey, but for this recipe I do use regular sugar mainly for cost and preservation (with sugar, I'm confident it will be shelf-stable for several months).  The other cool thing about this recipe is that it's really 2 recipes: crystallized ginger and ginger syrup! The syrup can be used for cocktails, homemade chai, adding to sparkling water or for baked goods where a liquid sweetener is required.  My fave?  Using the ginger syrup for homemade kombucha!  

1 lb of ginger (will turn into 3 cups of peeled and sliced ginger)
3 cups organic sugar (plus 1/4 cup for tossing)
3 cups water

1. Peel ginger using a vegetable peeler or the edge of a spoon (how-to here).  Thinly slice horizontally into 1/16" coins.  You can use a mandoline or just a sharp knife like I did.  Be sure to cut across the fibers (not with them) so your candy won't be stringy.

2. In a medium pot, combine sugar and water over medium heat until sugar dissolves.  Add ginger and bring to a simmer.  Simmer until ginger is soft and almost translucent, about 45-55 minutes.  

3. Strain ginger via a fine mesh strainer placed over a large bowl.  The bowl will capture your ginger syrup--don't toss this out!  Spread out well-strainer ginger on a cooling rack placed over a sheet tray (to catch extra drips) and let cool and dry, about 2 hours.  It will remain a little tacky.

4. Toss cooled ginger pieces with extra sugar to give them the crystallized look and keep them from sticking together.  Store in jars at room temperature.  Transfer your ginger syrup to a mason jar (or other pretty vessel) and store in the fridge.  Both should last for several months.  Thank you sugar!