It’s Christmas week! Yay!
So… we still haven’t put up that tree, but I’ve been doing a whole bunch of baking to make up for it (for Christmas and also for other upcoming holidays).
These cookies are so good that I’ve made them quite a few times this month. We (ahem, Jack) kept eating them before actually getting around to taking photos of them. Since no one needs a January gingerbread cookie, we made them again this past weekend. Better late than never! Here we go – these spicy little guys are ready to share:
The cookies are naturally sweetened with coconut sugar and molasses which makes them sweet but not too sweet. They’re spiced with ginger, cinnamon and (a surprise spice) cardamom, which gives a nice warm flavor. I mixed in a little almond butter, which makes these so delicious that I couldn’t stop eating little pieces of the dough while I was mixing it together.
You could definitely decorate these if you like – I took a more minimal approach because these are really tasty on their own, and also my decorating skills aren’t really so hot. (Remember these?)
Make these cookies into your favorite cut-out shapes, OR take the easy (but still very delicious) way out and roll them into balls to make soft, chewy ginger cookies like these:
Have you seen those lists of the new 2017 trends? You know, the ones that go around the internet this time of year predicting everything from the popularity of coconut oil to the color of pale pink we’ll all be wearing in the spring? One that caught my attention lately is that “they” are saying that staying in is the new going out. And I’m totally on board with that one. If you’ve had a busy holiday season how good does this sound: Stretchy pants, pasta, wine and and a nice dinner by the fire with twinkly Christmas tree lights in the background?
Ok, just kidding. We don’t have a fireplace and we haven’t even put up the Christmas tree because if you remember last year it was FEBRUARY before we got around to taking the thing down. But festivity aside, let’s make pasta, shall we?
I’m calling this a “Bolognese” although I realize that Italian grandmothers are shaking their heads right about now. A traditional bolognese has meat and other very specific ingredients. So while this is not exactly authentic, this pasta includes a delicious hearty mix of mushrooms and lentils that get all stewy with onions, carrots, tomatoes, and rosemary among other savory ingredients.
Hidden in this recipe are some unconventional ingredients. I find that balsamic vinegar and soy sauce brings out a rich flavor in the mushrooms. Sage (to me) has a sausage-like scent, so I used a bit of dried sage to bring a depth of flavor to the sauce. In addition to the lentils, I also added some finely crushed walnuts that you won’t detect but they add some richness to this no-meat situation.
I used canned tomatoes as the base of the sauce and tossed in some sliced fresh tomatoes near the end for no other reason except that I find brown foods exceptionally challenging to photograph 🙂
Aside from that whole not having a Christmas tree thing – Christmas came early because I got the chance to cook with KitchenAid’s new Stainless Steel Cookware set. The polished stainless steel is so fancy! The 12-inch skillet cooked my stewy sauce perfectly and these pieces were a breeze to clean. Plus, how pretty is this large pot (and Jack’s action-pasta drop shot!):
Cook your pasta until al dente, toss it with the sauce and serve it with steamed green veggies if you like!
There’s a shaved Brussels sprout salad in our Cookbook (page 68) that’s one of my go-to salads in the fall and/or winter. It has a tangy citrusy dressing and it’s tossed with cranberries and pine nuts. A few weeks ago while I was planning to make that salad for Thanksgiving, I saw a sprout and ricotta toast recipe on Epicurious and got the idea that my favorite little salad would make a bright festive appetizer. Instead of using ricotta cheese to hold the filling onto the toast I used smashed avocado – because I can never resist yet another seasonal avocado toast.
This one is super simple and also pretty healthy as far as holiday fare goes. Assemble the salad (which you can do far in advance, if you like). Before your guests come, toast the toasts, smash the avocado and top each toast with a bit of the salad.
If you’re not having a party, these are equally delicious for lunch with a bowl of soup.
Happy Friday from super-freezing Austin! Yikes, it got way too cold here yesterday and I’ve been bundled up in the house ever since. Last night, we stayed in, ate veggie bowls with roasted sweet potatoes and “vegged” out on the couch.
I think we’ll stay in again tonight and I just realized (thanks to the tortillas that I keep on hand in the freezer), that I have most of the ingredients to make enchiladas so perhaps these will be on tonight’s menu. This recipe comes from the “Winter Squash” section of our cookbook:
Unlike some enchiladas, these are pretty simple to make. And to make things even easier – this recipe is available next week from The Purple Carrot, which means that you can click over and order this recipe (plus a week’s worth of other delicious plant-based meals), and the ingredients will come to your door pre-measured ready for you to cook and assemble without leaving your house. The only difference is that my version here has cheese – the version you order will be a delicious vegan version!. Order by next Tuesday, December 13th and type in the code LEMONS25 for $25 off your first order!
The filling here is a mixture of roasted butternut squash, black beans, and scallions (although I think sweet potatoes in here would be delicious as well). Roll it up in corn tortillas and smother them with this smoky tomato-chipotle sauce. Top with cheese if you like. Note – pictured here is not the vegan version, but there is a vegan option in the recipe below.
This recipe takes me back to college, when I used to binge on super unhealthy things like chips and queso at night while trying to eat reasonably healthier and more vegetarian during the day. My transition to eating healthier foods took a few years to settle in. As a busy college student, the foods from Amy’s Kitchen really helped me make this transition. I loved their Vegetable Lasagna, the Breakfast Burrito, and of course these Nacho Snacks. So when the folks at Amy’s reached out to me, I knew I wanted to make a recipe that incorporated these snacks in a slightly healthier holiday appetizer.
The secret to this carrot “queso” is that it’s actually vegan. It’s made out of carrots, potato, sauteéd onions, and smoked paprika, among a few other ingredients. I’ve seen these carrot-potato-based “cheese” recipes around the internet lately and I’ve been intrigued to try this sort of thing out myself. While I’ve been making cashew-based “cheese” recipes for years, the starch from the potato really creates a more gooey queso-like texture. As you’re blending it together, it seems impossible, but just go with it. It won’t fool your biggest cheese-lovers, but once you top it with the proper fixins, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
I served it with Amy’s Nacho Cheese and Bean Snacks – which makes this whole thing pretty indulgent, but remember that the dip is still made of carrots, and besides, it’s the holidays so let’s live a little.