Vegan Sun Dried Tomato Risotto with Roasted Vegetables

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Ever since I finally caved and bought a sturdy dutch oven last month, I have found myself looking for any and every excuse to make one pot meals. Matt’s parents had us over for lunch on Sunday and I decided to experiment with a vegan risotto. The finished product was vibrant and comforting, but still healthy with the addition of colorful roasted vegetables on top. I brought this risotto along with us to my in-laws, and this is what I learned:

  1. If you put a bowl of fresh Parmesan alongside the dish, no one cares that it’s vegan.
  2. Rainy Sunday afternoon + comforting risotto for lunch + wine = me falling asleep on the car ride home.

The sun dried tomatoes lend a really nice texture and acidity to the dish, which balances out the creaminess of the risotto. If you aren’t vegetarian, you can use any kind of broth you happen to have on hand. The best part is that you can top risotto with anything! I used fresh parsley, pine nuts, and store-bought pesto. This would be great with Italian sausage as well (definitely not vegan, I know.)

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I think some people are intimidated by the thought of making risotto at home, but it is truly hard to mess up. Risotto can be time-consuming because it requires standing over the stove as you stir the broth in a little at a time, but as long as you have hot broth ready to add in along the cooking process, it shouldn’t take more than 40 minutes. You can also view this time you’re spending stirring the risotto as quiet time in the kitchen, drinking wine. That’s what I choose to do 🙂

Risotto is my go-to dish for Pot Lucks because it’s a crowd pleaser, and you can use just about anything in terms of vegetables and seasonings. I love bringing this extremely heavy Dutch oven with me with the hot risotto inside because I make Matt carry it and I can just throw it in the oven at a low temp to warm back up when we get where we’re going! Easy as that.

Vegan Sun Dried Tomato Risotto with Roasted Vegetables

Makes 4-6 main course servings or 6-8 side dish servings

2 1/2 T good olive oil

Salt & pepper

2 small zucchini, quartered and diced

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

1 red onion, chopped

2 shallots, finely diced

1 C Arborio rice

4 C broth of choice

1/3 C dry white wine

1/2 C sun dried tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 t dried basil

1/4 C nutritional yeast (optional) or 1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese if not vegan

Toppings such as fresh parsley, pine nuts, pesto, etc.

Method:

Preheat oven to 400°. Toss zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and red onion with 1 1/2 T olive oil, salt and pepper on large rimmed baking sheet. Roast in oven for about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

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Heat Dutch oven or medium pot and add remaining tablespoon of oil. In a separate pot, heat broth on low/medium heat.

Saute shallots in Dutch oven for about 4 minutes, until they turn translucent. Add rice and stir to coat with oil. Cook for about 2 more minutes. Add wine and let simmer for 3-4 minutes.

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Add broth, one ladle at a time, stirring frequently and cooking until rice absorbs liquid fully before adding next ladle of broth. When the broth is about halfway gone, add sun dried tomatoes and dried basil and continue adding broth one ladle at a time and stirring until fully absorbed. When all broth is used and liquid fully absorbed into rice, turn off heat and stir in nutritional yeast or Parmesan cheese. Serve with roasted vegetables and toppings of choice and enjoy!

Winter Minestrone Soup (GF)

The other night, my mom took me to see Ina Garten live at the Chicago Theater, and let me just say that I didn’t think it was possible to love her more than I did, but I do. It’s possible. She’s the best. She spoke about her almost 50 years of married life with her husband Jeffrey, and about all the experiences throughout her life that led her to where she is now, creating recipes on her farm in the Hamptons every day. Like what is that and how do I get to that point in life?

She acknowledged the existence of the “store bought is fine” meme, which I found very satisfying, and poked fun at herself for the number of times she says “how easy is that?” She spent a lot of time explaining her method for creating and testing recipes. I never realized how much thought and testing she puts into every single recipe, and it really struck a chord with me because she cares so much about how the finished product turns out for home cooks.

I love all her recipes, but this soup is on my list of favorites. I made a few small tweaks, and although she might not appreciate me dissecting her perfectly-crafted recipe to make it gluten and dairy-free, I hope you will! Because now we can alllll cozy up with a bowl of her amazing Winter Minestrone soup this season.

This recipe looks a little daunting at first because of the long list of ingredients, but you will probably already have most of them on hand like I did. One thing to note is that Ina stresses the use of chicken stock, not broth, in this recipe and it does make a noticeable difference. She of course makes her own stock, but let’s not get carried away… “Store bought is just fine.”

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Ina’s Winter Minestrone Soup (made GF and dairy-free)

Makes 6-8 servings

Good olive oil

4 ounces bacon, ½-inch-diced

1 large yellow onion, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and diced

3 stalks celery, diced

2½ cups butternut squash, peeled and diced

4 cloves minced garlic

1 t dried thyme

2- 14.5 oz cans roasted diced tomatoes

1 carton chicken stock (4 C)

1 bay leaf

Salt & pepper

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans (or Northern beans), drained and rinsed

2 C cooked GF pasta (I used Whole Foods brand chickpea shells)

8 to 10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves

½ cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons store-bought pesto (make sure it’s dairy-free)

1/4 C nutritional yeast

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Method:

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven. Add  bacon and cook over medium heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned.

Add the onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic, and thyme and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.

Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, the bay leaf, salt and pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Discard the bay leaf. Add the beans and cooked pasta and heat through. Just before serving, reheat the soup, add the spinach, cook just until the leaves are wilted. Stir in the white wine, pesto, and nutritional yeast. Enjoy!

Tip** if you plan on having leftovers, leave all pasta on side and add to soup as you serve. If you leave it in the soup for multiple days, it’ll absorb too much liquid from the soup and turn to mush.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad

I will start by saying that this recipe is magical because it’s the ONLY way my husband will consider eating brussels sprouts. Yes, he is a grown man. When we met, Matt convinced me that he wasn’t a picky eater, but as the years went on, it became  clear to me that this was just a courting strategy. The man has a list of things he really dislikes, and most of the time I’m nice enough to avoid them in my recipes. Brussels sprouts are probably #1 on that list. However, there is a pizza place down the street from us that makes Detroit style pizza, and they have one non-pizza item on their menu; brussels sprouts salad. I’m pretty sure Matt didn’t know exactly what he was eating the first time we shared it as an appetizer, but now that he associates brussels sprouts salad with pizza, it’s fair game.

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I used my food processor to shred fresh brussels sprouts as the base for the salad, and then just added whatever I had sitting in the fridge. Fresh cranberries, parsley, radishes, and a simple balsamic dressing made for a vibrant and fresh salad that I will now be making all the time! The one thing I wish I remembered to add would be slivered almonds for a nice crunch, so I’ll be sure to include those next time. Pecans or pine nuts would also be great in this.

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This salad will be a great side dish for holiday parties, but is simple enough for any weeknight meal! You can add your protein of choice on top- grilled chicken or crumbled bacon would be delicious- and swap out the vegetables and fruit based on  what you have available. It’s very versatile and colorful. In fact, with all that red and green in there, I couldn’t help but notice it looked a lot like Christmas…TOO SOON, I KNOW.

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Brussels Sprouts Salad

Makes 4-6 servings

For the Salad:

6 C washed fresh brussels sprouts, shredded

1 C sliced radishes

1 1/2 C fresh cranberries (chopped apples would also work)

1/3 C finely chopped flat leaf parsley

1/3 C slivered almonds

For the Dressing:

1/3 C balsamic vinegar

2 T dijon mustard

2 T honey

1/3 C good quality olive oil

Juice from 1/2 lemon

Salt & Pepper to taste

Method:

Assemble salad by layering shredded brussels sprouts with sliced radishes, cranberries, parsley, and almonds.

Whisk together dressing ingredients and toss with salad. Enjoy!

Tip** If you won’t be finishing the salad in one sitting, keep dressing on the side or leftovers will be soggy.

Cooking with Squash

My mom paid a visit to Kasten Waukau Creek Farm in Omro, WI last week and came home with “$25 worth” of different squashes, which let me tell you, is way more than it sounds like. She then sent me home with approximately 20 pounds of different varieties, and if there’s such thing as overdosing on squash I’m sure I’m dancing on the threshold. I am taking this copious amount of Winter squash and turning it into a challenge; to come up with a great recipe for each one in the bag!

In an attempt to start putting all these glorious gourds to use, I baked the orange and green beauty below, pureeing, and freezing it for later. Needless to say, this is only the beginning of the slew of squash-related recipes coming your way.

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If you know me, it’s clear that I love pumpkins. Carving them, seeding them, putting them on my desk to stare at adoringly all day… But squash is so much more than just a festive decoration.

Squash is one of the original Three Sister Crops, its origins dating back over 10,000 years ago in Mesoamerica. There are many squash varieties, but they are most commonly separated into two categories- Summer and Winter. Since zucchini falls under the Summer category, I’ll wait until next year to drop all my favorite zuch recipes on you.

Squash in general provides numerous health benefits, including high amounts of vitamins A and C, reduces risk of cancer, and improves sleep. It is also known for boosting your immune system and helps manage Diabetes.

After endless Googling, I have identified the squashes Mom sent me home with. The squashes shown above (in clockwise order from top left) are:

Sweet dumpling

Acorn Squash

Musquee de Provence pumpkin

Another Acorn

Lumina pumpkin

And last but NOT least…Butternut squash!

Over the next couple weeks, I will provide you with a recipe for each of these winter squashes! I know- try and contain your excitement. If you think you are not a squash person, I hope my enthusiasm encourages you to try at least one of them so that you can discover your deep-rooted passion for these vegetables.

Chicken Pot Pie (DF, GF)

There are few things as comforting and satisfying as something home-made, fresh out of the oven on a cold and rainy fall day. I have been craving chicken pot pie and finally mustered the courage to try a grain-free, dairy-free version. If you know me, you know I LOVE making pie, but this one presented a challenge with its absence of gluten to keep the crust pretty and in-tact.

If you don’t need to make this recipe dairy-free/gluten-free/paleo, go ahead and buy a store-bought crust to save time. You can make this a double crust or single crust pie!

If you’re feeling up to the challenge, I swear it’s worth it! The dough was easy to pull together, but not as easy to roll out, so I’ve included some helpful tips below.

I made chicken breasts in the crock pot yesterday, and had them shredded and ready to go in the fridge, which saved me a lot of time during prep and clean-up. The filling is filled with colorful veggies, herbs, and the coconut milk/chicken broth combo is so hearty. It turned out amazing. (I had to stop myself from snacking on it while I rolled out the crust). I swear you won’t notice the absence of dairy in this dish.

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Chicken Pot Pie (dairy-fee & gluten-free)

makes one 8″ round pie

For the crust:

**single crust recipe

1 C almond flour

1/4 C tapioca flour

1/4 C coconut flour

1/2 t salt

9 T cold Earth Balance vegan butter, or 9 T cold ghee

1/2 t dried oregano

1/2 t dried thyme

1 t onion powder

1 t garlic powder

2-3 T ice cold water

Method:

Combine all ingredients besides water in food processor, pulsing until dough begins to lump together. Slowly add water, 1 T at a time, stopping when all dough comes together. You don’t want to add too much, or it’ll be tricky to manage when rolling out. Scrape dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap, and flatten into a disk. Cover completely with wrap and set in fridge for about 1 hour.

For the filling:Pie4

2 C cooked chicken (rotisserie chicken works great)

2 herb cubes (from my last post!)

3 medium carrots chopped

3 stalks celery chopped

1 medium yellow onion chopped

1/4 C green peans or green beans (I used frozen)

2 garlic cloves minced

1/4 C arrowroot powder or corn starch

1 C light coconut milk

3/4 chicken broth

Salt & pepper

1/4 C chopped fresh parsley

Method:

Heat 2 herb cubes (or 2 T oil) in dutch oven over medium heat. Add chopped carrots, celery, and onions. Saute for 2 mins or until onions turn translucent. Add in frozen (or fresh) peas/green beans and garlic, and saute for another 2 minutes until fragrant.

Add arrowroot powder or cornstarch and mix to coat vegetables. Slowly add coconut milk and chicken broth, making sure to scrape bottom of pan. Season with salt and pepper, and bring to a low boil. Continue to heat and mix until simmering and you see the mixture thicken. Spoon filling into bottom of pie dish and set aside to cool slightly. Sprinkle filling with fresh parsley.

Heat oven to 350°

If you cheated and bought pie crust at the store (jk I’m not judging), make sure it’s nice and defrosted so it’s easy to work with. If you made it per my recipe above, take it out of the fridge and roll out between two sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap. DO NOT attempt to roll it out on your counter- GF dough is very sticky.

Transfer dough on top of pie and pinch around the edges to seal to the pie pan. Brush it with a little egg wash if you’re feeling fancy, and prick a few holes in the top for ventilation. Place in middle of preheated oven with a cookie sheet underneath to catch any filling that bubbles over. Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Serve warm with more fresh herbs on top. Enjoy!

Farmer’s Market Crustless Quiche

Have I mentioned breakfast is my favorite? I love making this quiche on Sunday morning after collecting lots of fresh vegetables and herbs at the Farmer’s Market. Despite my efforts to grocery plan, I usually I end up with way more vegetables than 2 people can reasonably consume before they go bad, and this is a great alternative to freezing whatever I can’t use.

This quiche is another customize-able recipe, where vegetables can be substituted for whatever you have on hand, and meat can be omitted. I consider this recipe a real keeper because I can also make it Whole 30 by using compliant sausage and coconut milk. This recipe is dairy-free because as much as I love it, it does not love me. However, cheese would be really good mixed in the egg mixture, so include your favorite kind if you’d like.

Regardless of the veggies you choose, sauteing them before baking the quiche ensures that they are fully cooked and not too al dente in your finished product. The last plug I’ll give this yummy breakfast is that you can make it on the weekend and have something ready to go for busy weekday mornings.

Crustless Quiche

Farmer’s Market Crustless Quiche

Time: 20 minutes active, 45 minutes baking

Makes 6 servings

1/2 lb. sausage of choice

1 T avocado or olive oil

1/2 C butternut squash (I used Trader Joe’s zig-zags from the refrigerated section)

BSZZ

1/2 red bell pepper

1 small yellow onion

6 free-range eggs

3/4 C milk of choice (I used full-fat coconut milk)

1 T garlic powder

1 t smoked paprika

Salt & pepper to taste

Fresh parsley for serving

Method:

Preheat oven to 350° and grease glass pie pan

Brown sausage (if using) in skillet over medium heat until cooked through, drain fat, and set aside. Using same pan, add oil and veggies and cook for 4-5 minutes or until onion is translucent and veggies are partially cooked and starting to brown. Combine with cooked sausage and add mixture to greased pie pan.

Beat eggs in large mixing bowl and add milk of choice, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and salt and pepper. *This is when you’d add cheese if using. Whisk together and pour slowly over meat and veggies in pie pan.

Bake on middle rack of oven for about 40 – 45 minutes, or until middle of quiche is set and toothpick comes out clean.

Top with chopped fresh parsley and serve warm. Enjoy!

Fall Vegetable Soup

What makes this soup “Fall Vegetable” soup? One of my favorite things about Fall (if you haven’t noticed, it’s a very long list) is the abundance of butternut squash at the Farmer’s Market. Evanston’s Farmer’s Market is full of vendors from Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin, and yesterday their tents were full of colorful squashes and veggies, reminding me of one of my favorite soup recipes! This goes out to my vegetarian friends (all two of them) but can be customized however you like. You can sub chicken broth in for the vegetable broth, or add sausage/chicken/noodles. I love making this soup on Sunday and having it ready for lunches all week.

Tip– if you’d rather not tackle cubing a butternut squash, Trader Joe’s sells them pre-cut in the refrigerated section.

Autumn Veggie Soup

Fall Vegetable Soup

Makes about 6 servings

1 T olive oil

1 medium white or yellow onion

2 large carrots, peeled and cubed

2 1/2 C butternut squash, cubed

2 cups yellow potatoes, cubed

1 zucchini, cubed

2 cloves garlic

1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes

4 C (one carton) vegetable broth

1 T fresh rosemary

1 T fresh parsley

1 t dried thyme

1 bay leaf

1-2 t crushed red pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

1 can kidney beans (drained)

3 C kale

Method:

In large soup pot/Dutch oven, heat olive oil and add onion, carrots, and butternut squash. Cook and stir for 3 mins. Add potatoes, garlic, and zucchini and cook for another 2 minutes. Add canned tomatoes, broth, and herbs, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When vegetables are tender, add drained kidney beans and kale and heat until kale is wilted. Enjoy!

*freezes very well