If you happened to see my post from Saturday, you’ll know that my area of the country was hit by our first major winter-storm of the season. In fact, it was the first really major storm in the last couple of years. Parts of the state I live in experienced blizzard conditions. Though we had a lot of snow at my house, we didn’t lose power, have the blizzard conditions (according to meteorologists) and overall fared pretty well. The fact that it fell on a Saturday was also nice. In the end, it basically meant I was snowed in on Saturday which gave me plenty of time to hang out in the kitchen.
I did bake, though not from the Magnolia Bakery cookbook. I also tried my hand at some more vegan recipes. Here a rundown of my time in the kitchen last week.
Long-time readers of the blog will remember that every now and then I get on a “plant-based kick.” As I continue to read more and more about the health, ecological, and economical benefits of removing animal-based products from one’s diet, I keep getting the urge to do so. But one of the things that would be quite difficult for me to give up would be baking and making desserts. So, I am “testing the waters” so to speak.
If you’re one of those people that is skeptical of a vegetarian diet, then let me alleviate some of these concerns for you. I’m also going to talk about some of the benefits of a vegetarian diet. Some people are hesitant to switch to a meat-free diet and lifestyle simply because it is the “fear of the unknown.” That’s what this blog post is for. It’s an attempt to answer some questions and make people feel better about the possibility going meat-free or reducing the amount of meat in their diets.
Long-time readers of my blog may be wondering why I am posting something like this. Are you a vegetarian? I am not. However, I’m slowly making the switch to a more plant-based diet and working on cutting out certain meats and other animal products. For example, I have not consumed cow’s milk directly from the jug in years. Instead, I use almond or soy milk. In baking, that’s a different story — at least for now. The reason why I compiled this information is to have a resource for those who are curious about making the switch to a more “flexitarian” diet or a plant-based one.
This recipe can be found in Cooking for Jeffrey and on Food Network’s website here.
Friday was another Lenten Friday which meant I had to avoid meat in the recipe that I made. Seeing as this blog is primarily an Ina Garten-cooking blog, this was somewhat of a challenge. Many of Ina’s recipes are not vegetarian, with the exception of her some of her soup and pasta recipes. Even the vegetable side dishes she has are not really designed to be served as the main meal.
So, it took a little work to find one that would fit in with the restrictions. Thus, I turned to Google and typed: Ina Garten vegetarian recipes. This helped and after combing through some results, I settled on a pasta dish.
This recipe can be found in Barefoot in Paris, page 82.
Last Friday, I made a recipe out of one of my favorite BC cookbooks, Barefoot in Paris. I’m not really sure what it is about this cookbook that interests me so much. Perhaps it’s the fancy food. Maybe it’s the fact that it allows me to live vicariously through Ina in Paris. Whatever the reason may be, the book is full of French-inspired cuisine that tastes great.
The original recipe for this soup calls for making pistou, which is basically the French version of pesto sauce. But it is March in New England, so fresh basil is hard to come by and what the grocery stores do have this time of year is expensive and doesn’t look too great. So, I decided to not make the pistou for this recipe.
Overall, this soup is basically a French-style minestrone. Though, personally I prefer the heartiness of a minestrone over this one. There are more layers of flavors in minestrone and this vegetable soup kind of felt a little flat. We had ample leftover and I found myself adding in crushed red pepper flakes each time I reheated it, just to add to the flavors.
This soup uses a vegetable that I’ve never seen in a soup before: string beans. It was a nice way to use this vegetable and spiced up the vegetable soup-monotony that I usually have (carrots, onions, potatoes, etc). Leaving the skins on the potatoes and using white potatoes give the soup a natural thickening agent, especially as it cools.
To keep with the healthier-eating plan that my family and I have been doing, I used vegetable spaghetti instead of regular spaghetti. As expected, once the soup cooled and remained in the fridge a few days, the pasta did act like a sponge and soak up a lot of the excess water. However, it seems that the pasta didn’t “bloom” as much as other pastas used in vegetable-based soups before.
Overall, Provencal Vegetable Soup is nothing to really write home about. While it is easy and can be adapted to use any vegetables you have available to you, the flavors weren’t really there for me. As is common with many Barefoot Contessa recipes, the heavy use of pepper overpowers the dish.
This weekend, I am planning to resume the tradition of preparing dinner one night a week. Currently, we are in the middle of the Roman Catholic Lent season, which means my parents observe the practice of not consuming meat on Fridays.
So, my choices were a little slim. At first, I thought to myself, “Well, I can just make a vegetarian dish from one of the blogs.” But then I remembered that I skipped making Ina recipes last weekend. So, I forced myself to find a recipe that would work. But let’s face it, while I love Ina, she doesn’t exactly abide by the vegetarian lifestyle. So, my pickings were slim. It was basically soups or some large portion vegetable dishes like spanakopita.
However, things like spinach in puff pastry doesn’t have all that much nutritional value for a major meal at the end of the day. So, soup it is. And of course, I’ll be omitting all animal products. I’ll be subbing vegetable stock for chicken stock.
I decided to make a soup that features winter vegetables. After all, spring is just around the corner! And soon we will be saying “bye bye” to squashes and potatoes in favor of other vegetables like fresh, garden-grown peppers, tomatoes, and string beans. So, I’m going to take advantage of root vegetables while I still can!
Dinner Friday will be Provencal Vegetable Soup with Pistou. This recipe, if you couldn’t tell by the name, appears in Barefoot in Paris, which is still my favorite Ina cookbook. You can read the review of it here.
This weekend is also my father’s birthday. So I will be making him a cake. Though the cake will not be an Ina recipe, I will still make a blog post about it. I may cook an additional Ina recipe over the next few days. Maybe I’ll finally attempt one of her appetizers!
This recipe can be found in Barefoot in Paris, page 160.
The side dish I made to go along with the Panko-Crusted Salmon last Friday was something that took no time at all in the kitchen! Ina’s French-inspired French String Beans turn up the flavor on otherwise pretty bland veggies.
Sadly since it is February, I did not get the chance to truly enjoy the full potential of this recipe. I had to use frozen regular “American” string beans instead of the thinner, slightly longer French ones. But, I still think it turned out well enough for me to get a sense of what Ina was going for with it.
In the recipe, you pair the string beans with a mixture of peppers and a red onion. You roast the onion and peppers in the oven for about 15 minutes. I did this, but upon eating the meal I think they need another few minutes in the oven. The peppers were okay, but the onion could have used a little more “roasted” texture. To be honest, I’m not really sure what I’m trying to describe here. It seemed like another two to three minutes in the oven would have made things a bit better.
Despite this, the recipe produced a flavorful side dish that was pretty easy to make. That’s a win for me!
On Friday, I made this wonderful soup that tasted so yummy. An added bonus? It’s vegan! This soup is a wonderful soup to make because its essentially a one-pot meal. It has veggies, grains, and proteins all in one recipe! It will definitely save you some time in the kitchen while also ticking off some nutrient requirements.
Even though this is an Ina Garten cook-through blog, I have been broadening my recipe stash and blog posts since the beginning of 2021. Every so often I take a break from Ina’s recipes and when I do, I try to go plant-based. Over the years, I’ve toyed with going vegetarian or full-on vegan. As of yet, that has yet to happen…just look at a few recipe reviews posts.
However, I am still trying to include more plants in my diet on a regular basis. Thus, I have amassed a collection of cookbooks — both in print and on my Kindle e-reader — that have come in handy over the last couple of months.
Below, I have included photos of some of my favorites. You’ll notice that many of them are “general cookbooks.” The huge tomes that cover the gambit. Think Joy of Cooking but for plant eaters!
This book was one of the first vegetarian cookbooks I purchased! It is still a great reference and resource for me. Plus with Bittman’s extensive knowledge of all types of culinary escapades, I feel good making one of these recipes since I can trust them.
This book has a much different tone than that of Mark Bittman’s book. The author’s humor and love for food easily comes across on each page. There are some great recipes in here, and Dragonwagon’s approach to plant-based meals is much more loosey-goosey than other authors. This makes it a great book for beginners!
I call this one the “Vegan Bible.” It literally has every recipe you could ever want as a vegan. I highly recommend this book, especially since many of the recipes are approachable, even for those starting out on a vegan journey. If you are looking to buy a vegan cookbook, make it this one!
Some books that I have on my Kindle e-reader include:
Love Real Food by Kathryne Taylor, the creator of the food blog Cookie + Kate. It has many wonderful recipes that are whole food and plant-based. One added benefit is many of them include ways in which to make the recipe vegan or gluten free.
American’s Test Kitchen The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook by the Chefs at America’s Test Kitchen. While I know that the Mediterranean Diet is not vegetarian or vegan, it is plant-based. It uses animal protein to supplement the plant-based proteins. Even if you ignore the meat-based chapters, there are still some wonderful, tried and true recipes in this book!
I hope you enjoyed this peek into a small section of my cookbook shelf.