Cranberry Orange Sauce with Ginger

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This year was the first year that I made cranberry sauce from scratch and I was amazed at how easy it was to make with only a few ingredients. To be honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving dinner but this homemade sauce has completely changed my mind. Why anyone would ever buy store bought again is beyond me… You can add so many different flavors to your homemade cranberry sauce. In this recipe, I added fresh squeezed orange juice and ginger and just enough sugar so that the sauce remains slightly tart. This sauce was perfected through trial and error. The first batch I made came out incredibly bitter and after extensive research I came to realize that I was over cooking the cranberries. They only need to be simmered for about 10 minutes. Do not make the same mistake I did! In addition, cranberries contain high amounts of pectin, which is released when you cook them. This causes the sauce to naturally thicken to the consistency of a jam. This recipe yielded about 2 1/2 cups but I doubled the recipe and decided to freeze some. Who ever said cranberry sauce should be exclusively served at Thanksgiving dinner was crazy. I served this sauce along with Camembert cheese (similar to Brie) and it was a pair made in heaven. Tip: The leftover cranberry sauce is super yummy in Greek yogurt!

Time:15 mins
Yields: 2 1/2 cups
Dietary Info: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free

•1 12-16 oz. bag of cranberries
•1 heaping cup of sugar
•1 cup water
•1-2 inch piece of ginger, grated
•1/4 cup fresh orange juice, added last
•Pinch of nutmeg

Throw everything except orange juice into a large pot. Bring to a medium boil and then simmer for ten minutes. Remove from heat and and stir in orange juice. Transfer to a bowl or airtight container and allow to cool completely. The sauce will thicken as it cools. Optional: Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. This allows the sauce to thicken even more. Enjoy!

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Vegetable Literacy

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So, I’ve been struggling to find time over the past few months for recipe posting. My recent lack of blogging has largely been due to the fact that I’ve been working quite a lot over the past several months. In May, I got a job focusing on what I am most passionate about: sustainable agriculture. Over the course of the summer and into the early fall, I ran a farming education program where I was working primarily with elementary school students. We had various summer camps and school field trips to our farm where students would participate in our outdoor education program. We would give the children a tour of the crop fields, discussing with them how we grow our vegetables. We would often take them on a hike and allow them to pick some of their own vegetables to take home. The focus of the program was to create “vegetable literate” children, to teach them how food grows, why food grows and to encourage healthy eating habits. Our farm is USDA-certified organic vegetable farm on the campus of Wilson College just south of Harrisburg, PA. Here in semi-rural Pennsylvania, there are all kinds of misconceptions about where food comes from. When asked, my students usually declare that their food comes from “the store”. Although we are surrounded by such ample farmland, there is quite a disconnect between people and the land. In fact, many adults are confused about how and where their food grows. The ultimate goal is to bridge that gap and to stress the importance of eating local and organic. Though I haven’t really had time for culinary experimentation this summer, I have really enjoyed working toward changing our current food system, even in a very minimal way. When it comes to creating a more sustainable agricultural system, every little effort counts. As the farming season comes to a halt and my program begins to wind down, I am finding more time on my hands to blog about my eating adventures. I’ll be posting some seasonal recipes over the next couple of weeks, in preparation for Thanksgiving (this is going to be the first year I’m cooking the meal myself!) Stay tuned!

Babaganoush (Babaganouj)

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As the farming season comes to a close, I’ve been trying to scoop up all the veggies at the farmer’s market before they’re totally gone. Where I live, it’s prime time for eggplant – the shining star of my babaganoush recipe. Babaganoush is a delicious dip frequently served with pita bread in most Middle Eastern restaurants. If you haven’t had babaganoush before it is essentially hummus WITHOUT chickpeas and WITH eggplant. And it’s delicious (did I mention that?) Traditionally, the eggplant is grilled but I simply sliced mine up and roasted it for about 15-20 minutes. This recipe can easily be doubled for a large group of people. While even hummus has become somewhat of a common staple, this babaganoush is a creative recipe to serve for company. Side note: I always find it very difficult to tell when eggplants are ripe. If they’re overripe, they can be very bitter and who wants to eat bitter eggplant? I think the best way to tell if they’re ripe is to give them a firm but gentle squeeze and if the skin bounces back, then you’re good. But if the eggplant if soft and your fingers leave an imprint, the eggplant is likely overripe. Eeek!

Dietary info: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free
Yield: about 2 cups
Time: 30 minutes

•1 large eggplant
•1/4 cup tahini
•1 tablespoon lemon juice
•2 tablespoons olive oil
•2 large cloves of garlic
•1 teaspoon cumin
•Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 1 teaspoon Zaatar*
Optional: Chopped herbs, such as parsley

* Zaatar (Za’atar) is a common Middle Eastern spice blend usually consisting of oregano, sumac, coriander, sesame seeds and thyme though there are different variations.

1. Slice eggplant into 1/4 inch coins and salt. Roast for about 15-20 minutes.

2. When eggplant is done (it will have shriveled a bit) you have the tedious option of de-seeding the eggplant. I do not do this. I am lazy. I also don’t think there is anything wrong with using the seeds.

3. Throw all ingredients into a food processor and process for about 30 seconds. Assess the situation. Is it super chunky? If you want it super chunky, then cool. You’re done. If you want it to be smooth, you probably want to scrape the sides and purée it for another 30 seconds. Garnish with Zaatar, herbs of your choice or just a little olive oil. Enjoy!

Oh, and you can use it as a spread on sandwiches too!

Seeking a Saner Food System

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Great article yesterday from NPR on our current food system . This interview touches on many of the reasons why I am a vegetarian but also discusses alternatives to eating factory-farmed meat, such as buying local and free range meat. The author of Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat mentions her own choice to boycott the meat industry but acknowledges that those who do eat meat are not “morally inferior”, a point that bears scrutiny. I have met many vegetarians who believe themselves to be “ethically superior” to meat-eaters. While I do think that eating less or no meat is crucial to undoing the impacts industrial agriculture has had on the environment, I do not think that this sense of conceit is going to effectively change our food system or encourage non-vegetarians to lessen their meat intake. “It’s a simple yet powerful message: At every breakfast, lunch and dinner, we make food choices that move us either toward a saner food system or further away.”

Chickpea Tikka Masala

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Indian is probably my favorite cuisine. Naan, samosas, pakora – it is all just so good. But until recently I had never really experimented with cooking Indian food at home. When I became a vegetarian three years ago, the hardest thing I had to give up was my favorite Indian dish: chicken tikka masala, a mildly spiced dish made with a tomato cream sauce. Oh, how I have missed that sauce. I got the idea to recreate this dish using chickpeas, instead of chicken – kind of similar to chana masala. I was surprisingly satisfied with how it turned out. This sauce is definitely going to be a staple from this day forward! You can put your own spin on this recipe by doing away with the chickpeas entirely, adding different vegetables, cashews and/or raisins.

Time: 30-40 minutes
Serves: 2-4
Dietary Info: Gluten-free

  • 1 15 oz. can tomato purée
  • 1 cup cream
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • Cayenne pepper
    Note: 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon for a MILD dish- or- 3/4 – 1 teaspoon for a SPICY dish
  • Pinch of garam masala (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons of ghee, butter or oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup jasmine or basmati rice

    1. Start by heating ghee, butter or oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 3-4 minutes. Then, add garlic, salt and spices and cook for another 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.

    2. Next, add tomato purée and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add sugar and cream, simmering for about 10 more minutes or until sauce is thickened. Note: Now is a good time to cook your rice.

    3. Lastly, add chickpeas and cilantro and simmer for 5 more minutes. Serve over rice and garnish with chopped cilantro. Enjoy!

    How To: Build Your Own Veggie Burger

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    I absolutely love experimenting with different types veggie burgers. The flavor combinations are endless and homemade burgers are so much better than the frozen store-bought kind. So, I thought I would share MY guidelines to building a veggie burger. These burgers can be made ahead of time and can be frozen for up to 3 months. Who needs meat when you can have veggie burgers like these?! Check out my recipe for Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean burgers!

    Get creative and make it your own! Here is how:

    2 cups of cooked legumes:
    •Beans (black, garbanzo, white, kidney)
    •Peas
    •Lentils

    2 cups of starch and/or grains (you can use 2-3 different ones):
    •Sweet potato
    •Quinoa
    •Brown rice
    •Breadcrumbs
    •Ground oats

    2-3 cups of vegetables:
    •Onion
    •Peppers
    •Corn
    •Carrots
    •Mushrooms

    1/3 cup of liquid/thickener (choose 1-2):
    •Tomato paste
    •Tahini
    •Ketchup
    •Sriracha
    •Oils (olive, coconut, grape seed, canola)
    •Vegetable broth
    •1 egg

    1/3 cup of herbs:
    •Cilantro
    •Parsley
    •Basil
    •Rosemary
    •Thyme

    Spices (based on preference):
    •Cumin
    •Chili powder
    •Paprika
    •Cayenne pepper
    •Oregano
    •Curry powder
    •Garam masala

    1-2 tablespoons of seeds (optional):
    •Flax
    •Sesame
    •Chia

    1/2 cup of cheese (optional):
    •Sharp cheddar
    •Cheddar
    •Mozzarella
    •Jack
    •Feta

    Now, for the assembling:

    1. In a mixing bowl, mash legume of choice with a fork or potato masher. Add starch or grain and combine to create a paste (it’s alright if it’s chunky!) I use my hands for this step and it’s really fun.

    2. Add vegetables, then liquid and combine with (clean!) hands. Add herbs, spices, seeds and cheese if you so desire. Combine.

    3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    4. While oven is preheating, form patties with your mixture. This recipe should make about 8-10 medium-sized veggie burgers. Place on a well oiled or parchment lined baking sheet.

    5. Bake burgers for 20 minutes, flipping once halfway through (10 minutes on each side).

    6. Take out of oven and serve on a bun of your choice, topping with: hummus, ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, onion, avocado, tomato, mixed greens, mushrooms – whatever you desire!

    7. You can store your veggie burgers in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. These burgers can be grilled or cooked in a stovetop skillet. About 4-5 minutes on each side should do the trick! Enjoy!

    Note: You can also freeze these veggie burgers in an airtight container (I recommend a BPA-free bag) for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to cook them up, allow burgers to thaw for an hour before cooking or grilling.

    Mini Hummus Pizzas

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    Well, the past few weeks have been so hectic and I haven’t had the time to make anything super yummy or creative. It’s pretty much been pasta or take out every night. But I finally got the chance to experiment with these delicious (and quick!) pita pizzas yesterday. Now, I went out on a limb here as this is not your traditional pizza. I made these personal pita pizzas (how’s that for alliteration?) with hummus, sautéed veggies and feta cheese. This post is part of Our Growing Edge, a monthly food blogging event that encourages food bloggers to try new things! Hope you enjoy this experiment!

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    Dietary Info: Dairy-Free Option

    Yields: One personal pizza

    Time: 20 minutes

    •1 flatbread pita
    •1/2 cup Hummus
    •3/4 cup chopped vegetables of your choice (I did red pepper, onion and asparagus)
    •1/4 cup feta cheese*
    •1 clove of garlic, minced
    •1 tablespoon olive oil
    •Chopped cilantro, for garnish
    •Salt and pepper for sprinkling

    *For a vegan option, omit cheese or use a dairy-free alternative.

    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush flatbread pita with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 5-7 minutes.

    2. While pita is baking, sauté garlic and vegetables in a small skillet.

    3. Remove pita from oven and smother with hummus. Next, top with veggies and feta.

    4. Place your hummus pizza back in the oven and bake for another 5-7 minutes (or until pita is golden brown), allowing the feta to melt a bit. Let cool and garnish with cilantro. Enjoy!

    Homemade Cilantro Salsa

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    Dietary Info: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free

    Yield: about 2 cups

    Time: 10 minutes

  • 4 red vine tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small jalapeño, seeded and minced OR 1/2 serrano pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1/8 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 dash of cumin
  • 1 dash of chili powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

    Throw everything into a food processor and pulse until all the ingredients come together. I usually pulse about 10 times in a food processor to get my desired chunkiness. Serve with chips and enjoy!

    Moroccan Lentil Soup with Chickpeas and Kale

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    It just so happens that January is soup month! I love soup more than a lot of things in this world, which might be why I’m a January baby. This January has been especially frigid. In fact, today was 7 degrees (!!!) here on the east coast. So I thought, what better way to warm up than with a big bowl of hearty lentil soup? In celebration of soup month, I have made this vegan version of Moroccan Harira soup, traditionally made with lamb and served at Ramadan. Note: I added chopped kale but spinach is great too. Also, if you happen to have any garam masala laying around it really adds a lot of flavor!

    Dietary Info: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free

    Serves: 6-8

    Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

  • 1- 1/2 cups brown lentils
  • 1 15 oz. can chickpeas
  • 1 28 oz. can tomato purée
  • 7 cups of water
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 large celery sticks, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 3 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Optional: 1 large pinch garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

    1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté for about 3 minutes. Then, add carrots and celery and sauté for another 3 minutes.

    2. Add tomato purée, water, spices, salt, pepper, bay leaves, lemon juice and lentils. Bring to a boil for several minutes. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    3. Add chickpeas, kale, parsley and cilantro. Simmer uncovered for 15 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Note: The soup will be very thick by now, much like a stew. Add water if you would prefer it to be thinner. Remove bay leaves and serve, garnished with fresh parsley. Enjoy and stay warm!

    Traditional Tzatziki

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    Dietary Info: Gluten-Free

    Yield: about 2- 1/2 cups

    Time: 5 minutes

    The other day, I was thinking about a trip I took to Greece a couple of years ago and I have been on a Mediterranean kick ever since. The food there was wonderful, the people were incredibly hospitable and the country itself was absolutely gorgeous! In Greece, tzatziki is traditionally served with gyro meat but it is also often served with pita for dipping. The cucumber makes tzatziki very refreshing and the yogurt makes for a tangy flavor. Quick and easy to make, I recommend serving this tzatziki with veggies (baby carrots and sliced peppers are great) but pita chips are yummy too!

    • 1- 1/2 cups Nonfat Greek yogurt
    • 1 large cucumber, seeded and finely chopped
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon dill, minced
    • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
    • Salt and pepper to taste

    Throw yogurt into a bowl, followed by the rest of the ingredients. Stir to combine well. Optional but recommended: refrigerate for an hour, allowing tzatziki to thicken. Serve with veggies or pita chips. Tzatziki can be refrigerated, covered, for about 3-5 days. Enjoy!

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    A panoramic of Athens photographed from the Parthenon. Such a beautifully sunny day! Definitely the best trip I have ever taken.