Sunday, June 23, 2013

Experiment #4: Sloppy Joes!

First, an apology for my absence last week. B and I had celebrated our first wedding anniversary in Durango, Colorado and Mesa Verde National Park. We had an amazing time hiking, rafting, and drinking tasty beers (Well, I did. B's not a beer fan). But we're both happy to be back in NM eating home-cooked food (I can only eat so many quinoa burgers before I get bored).

Since we were getting back into our normal routine, I didn't create a new recipe last week. To make up for it, this latest experiment is new and improved with mediocre Instagram photos!

When I'm menu planning for the week, I always ask B what he wants for dinner. His reply is usually, "Eh, whatever you want to make is fine." Recently, however, I got a request. "Sloppy Joes!" he said, "We haven't had them in a long time." Tonight, I finally granted that request.

Here's the mise en place for the sloppy joes. Missing are ketchup (because the recipe I modified didn't call for it, but it definitely needed some) and vegetable stock (because I was going to cook the lentils in water until I remembered that veggie stock is ALWAYS better!).

Sloppy Joes - Serves...a lot. Probably 6-8 depending on the size of buns you use.

  • Olive oil, for sauteeing
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15 oz can pinto beans
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tbsp vegan worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 chipotle pepper, minced, plus 1 tsp adobo sauce
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

Finely dice your onion and carrots. This is important for two reasons: 1) we want them to cook quickly and thoroughly for a soft texture, and 2) we want nice little pieces for a proper sloppy joe consistency. My dainty little fingernail is a reference for how small I made my pieces.

In a large pot, heat a couple tbsp of olive oil. Saute the onion and carrot for five minutes. Add the stock, lentils, and tomatoes to the pot. Bring to a simmer, and then cover and reduce heat. Simmer the lentil mixture for 20 minutes or until lentils and carrots are tender.

Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Use a potato masher to mash the tomatoes and beans into smaller pieces (again, we're looking for that classic sloppy joe texture). Cook uncovered on medium-low for a few more minutes until the sauce is your desired thickness.

I served these on giant whole wheat kaiser rolls. I mean GIANT! This sandwich was a good 6" in diameter. I originally planned to bake some sweet potato tots on the side, but when B saw these, he said the sandwiches would be enough!

The verdict: They were tasty, but not quite what B expected for sloppy joes. He's used to a more barbeque-like sauce. Of course, that didn't stop him from licking his plate clean while I was only halfway through mine. I have promised him a Sloppy Joe Experiment, Part 2 with a different sauce recipe.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Experiment #3: Summer Pesto Farro

Little is more delicious on a hot day than fresh veggies and herbs. It was 85 degrees in my house with the swamp cooler on this afternoon, so it seemed like a good day to make a refreshing pesto.

I found this Giada de Laurentiis recipe while searching for easy farro recipes last week. For those of you who've never had it, farro (sometimes called wheatberry) is a type of whole wheat that's been harvested in the Mediterranean and Middle East for centuries. It's a slightly sweet, slightly nutty substitute for rice or pasta. Compared to modern wheat, farro has more fiber and protein and its gluten is easier to digest.

I liked how simple Giada's recipe was, but found it to be too heavy on the parsley. I also had some baby spinach to use up, and I figured I could hide its lovely nutrients from B underneath the herbal flavors (it worked!). Here is the delicious result:

Summer Pesto Farro - serves 4
  • 8 oz semi-pearled farro
  • 4 c vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • 1/3 cup basil
  • 1/2 cup baby spinach
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tbsp dried thyme (or 1 tbsp fresh thyme)
  • 2 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
In a pot, bring the stock to a boil. Add the farro and stir. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 25 minutes or until the farro is tender. 

While the farro cooks, prepare the pesto. Put the parsley, basil, spinach, garlic, and thyme in a food processor. Chop to a coarse texture. Add the olive oil, vinegar, nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper to the herbs. Process to desired consistency (I like my pesto on the coarse side). 

Once tender, drain the farro and return it to the pot. Add the pesto, mix, and adjust the salt and pepper to taste. 

Serve as a light main dish with added veggies (fresh peas would be awesome. I had marinated artichoke hearts.) or as a side dish (B ate his on the side with chicken sausages). 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Experiment #2: Roasted Garlic and Potato Soup

In hindsight, I realize that using my oven for 45 minutes in 85 degree heat was not the wisest decision I've made. However, the delicious results (and my soup obsession) made it all worth it. If you didn't want to turn on the oven, you could roast the vegetables on the grill before pureeing them into the soup.

Roasted Garlic and Potato Soup - Serves 4
Olive oil
3 heads garlic
1 lb small potatoes (I used red but gold would be great, too)
1 sweet onion, sliced thin
4 cups vegetable stock
1/4 white wine
1/2 cup plain soy creamer
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp red pepper flakes (or more to taste - we like it spicier!)
salt and pepper to taste

crusty bread for serving (I found a nice small loaf of rosemary bread at Trader Joe's)

Slice the top off of each head of garlic, lightly rub the garlic with olive oil, and wrap the heads in aluminum foil. Similarly, rub the potatoes in olive oil and wrap in foil. Roast the garlic and potatoes in a 400 degree oven (or on the grill) for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and allow them to cool for 10-15 minutes.

While the garlic and potatoes roast, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven. Caramelize the sliced onion over low heat.

Chop the potatoes, and squeeze the roasted garlic out of its skin. Remove the onions from the heat and add the potatoes, garlic, vegetable stock, wine, creamer, and spices. Use a standard or immersion blender to puree the soup. Return the soup to the heat and bring to a simmer. Test the spices and adjust to your liking.

Serve with slices of crusty bread for dipping.