Tag Archives: vegetarian

Easy Lentil and Rice Pilaf – microwave OR slow cooker recipe

Easy rice and lentil pilaf recipe slow cooker microwave joy makin' mamasI have always loved those rice pilaf mixes that come in a box. The ones with rice and pasta or rice and another grain, that come pre-seasoned. You know the ones! They are easy to make and they go well with lots of foods. Unfortunately, they tend to be really high in sodium, the price per pound is shocking unless you have a coupon, and when I was a vegetarian, they were out of the question entirely. (And if you have food allergies? Forget it!) I have spent years trying to come up with a simple, vegetarian recipe that was every bit as delicious as the box without any of the added expense. I’ve made things that were delicious, but complicated. I found vegetarian products that were even more expensive. I conducted a lot of recipe trials that were best described as disappointing. Finally, with help from my mini crock, I have done it! I made a rice and lentil pilaf that I love every bit as much as any other pilaf side dish I’ve ever tried. The ingredients are inexpensive, it goes together quickly, and cleanup is a snap. The slow cooker version can be set up ahead of time to be ready at dinner, so you can give your full attention to the main dish. I will probably never buy the box mix again, even on sale, since I have limited storage space and I always have rice and lentils on hand.

When my husband and I were a family of two, I loved the mini crock for making smaller meals with all the convenience of my big crock pot. Since he is one of those people who don’t like leftovers (I don’t understand it either) it worked out to be easier for me to make smaller portions than to try and figure out what to do with the rest of a full size recipe. I also cooked smaller quantities when I lived alone, because even though I personally LOVE leftovers, there’s a limit. I sort of thought that once I moved on to cooking for a family of four, my mini crock would languish, unloved, in my pantry- but that hasn’t been the case. The mini crock has been an unfailing convenience for side dishes. I also sometimes deploy it for something that I know only my husband and I will eat- making a smaller amount and integrating it into our dinner plans means we don’t have to stop eating those foods or endure a picky eater rebellion when we just want to enjoy something spicy. It is also the perfect size for keeping dips warm at parties. I can definitely say that my mini crock has turned out to be a surprise star in my convenient-family-cooking lineup.

Slow Cooker Lentil and Rice Pilaf
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Serves: 6 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • ½ cup lentils
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon parsley flakes
  • ¼ cup dried onion
  • Pinch salt
  • 3.5 cups vegetable broth
Instructions
  1. Rinse and pick over lentils.
  2. Add all ingredients to mini-crock. Stir well.
  3. Cook 3-4 hours on high or 4-5 hours on low, until rice and beans are tender.

Don’t have one? you can get one:

Rival 2 Quart Slow Cooker Crock Pot, White with Tempered Glass Top {Aff link}
Rival 2 Quart Slow Cooker Crock Pot, White with Tempered Glass Top {Aff link}

or, if you don’t think a mini crock is right for your kitchen, you can make this in the microwave in a 2 quart stoneware casserole. (We all have to be selective. Much as I would love to own every tool and gadget known to humankind, I find that I have to edit, because one kitchen only holds so much.) You can use a glass casserole if that’s all you have, but I’ve found that the ceramic and stoneware casseroles do a better job of making microwaved food taste like it was cooked on the stove or in the oven, and avoid the “microwaved” pitfalls like chewy meats or overdone grains.Easy rice and lentil pilaf microwave process shot Joy Makin' Mamas

Microwave Lentil and Rice Pilaf
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Serves: 6
 
I made this in my Kitchenaid 1.9 Quart ceramic casserole and in my Pampered Chef Round Covered Baker for test purposes. You could use any stoneware casserole of a similar size.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • ½ cup lentils
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon parsley flakes
  • ¼ cup dried onion
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
Instructions
  1. Rinse and pick over lentils.
  2. Combine brown rice, lentils, canola oil, parsley flakes, and dried onion. Stir well.
  3. Add vegetable broth and salt.
  4. Microwave on high 16 minutes, stirring every 4-6 minutes. Check for doneness. If there is still a great deal of liquid in the casserole, microwave in 2 minute increments until it is mostly absorbed.
  5. Let stand, covered, for four minutes. Nearly all liquid should be absorbed.
Notes
The slow cooker version needs more liquid because of the longer cooking time. The reason I can't give you a single, firm cooking time is because microwave power varies, and mine is fairly low power. If you have a high power microwave, I recommend you do the initial cook for 8 minutes and test it every two to four minutes until you arrive at the right time for your microwave.

 

KitchenAid KBLR19CRBF Streamline Ceramic 1.9-Quart Casserole Bakeware
KitchenAid KBLR19CRBF Streamline Ceramic 1.9-Quart Casserole Bakeware {Aff Link}

Warm you up Homemade Chili Kit

Warm up with a Homemade Chili Kit Free PrintableThe popularity of mason jars is just a bit over the top, in my opinion, but Gifts in a Jar have been around for ages. These can be creative, attractive, and very, very budget friendly indeed. You don’t HAVE to use a mason jar- any attractive, quart size container will do. (Just make sure it’s food grade, if you’re doing a food gift.) You can even use zippered food storage bags and a basket to present your gift. One of my all-time favorite such gifts was the year I had cayenne peppers from the garden that I had dried. I made home made chili kits, and I was able to add two home grown, dried chilis to each jar. I’ve got for you today instructions for how to assemble your jar, a recipe for my personal Saltless Chili Powder blend to include, and a FREE printable recipe card to attach. The recipe includes instructions for the carnivore version AND the vegetarian version of this excellent and filling chili recipe.

Meghan's Saltless Chili Powder
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Recipe type: spices
Cuisine: American
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this is my personal chili powder blend. I developed this recipe to go along with my first husband's famous chili recipe, so he could customize the "hotness" and flavor blend to suit his cooking style.
Ingredients
  • 2½ Tablespoons Paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon onion powder
  • 1½ Tablespoon cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper powder
Instructions
  1. Blend well.
  2. Store in a tightly covered container in a cool, dark place. Use within 3-6 months.
Notes
Garlic *powder* really makes a difference in this blend. I've also used garlic granules, and I haven't been as pleased. I usually have to go someplace that carries bulk spices to find true garlic powder. For spice lightweights, substitute milder ancho chili powder for the cayenne. (Actually my preference.)

To create Chili In A Jar, you’ll need 4 cups total of dried beans. In a quart size jar, layer any six of:

  • adzuki
  • kidney
  • great northern
  • navy
  • roman
  • black eyed peas
  • cranberry beans
  • pinto beans
  • pink beans
  • red beans

Leave a small “head space” at the neck of the jar. Black beans are no good for this, as they turn the chili a very unappetizing color. Package 1 Tablespoon of Meghan’s Saltless Chili Powder in a snack size zippered bag, and squeeze all the air out. Fold it into the head space, and put on your lid, with or without a square of decorative fabric between the lid and the band. (In case you aren’t sure what I’m talking about: Canning jar lids come in two pieces. A flat piece called the “lid,” and a screw on piece called the band.) If you have dried cayenne peppers, add them along with the bow. Punch a hole in your recipe card and tie a ribbon through it to attach to your jar, and gift with love. If you’re feeling extra fancy, include a copy of one of our cookbooks.

Need more awesome DIY ideas for gifts or for any day? Visit our DIY pinterest board.

Follow Meghan Gray’s board DIYs on Pinterest.

Sorry, honey, I’m busy exploding dinner.

Have you read this Consumer Reports article about Pyrex dishes? To sum up: Newer glass cookware is made from a different (cheaper) type of glass that doesn’t withstand thermal shock as well as Grandma’s Pyrex dishes did. Also? Using damaged glass dishes, (meaning scratched or chipped) increases the danger of failure. (And by failure, they mean KERBLOOEY.)

I had never been told (or had completely forgotten) that you should never, ever, ever use Pyrex that is scratched or chipped to cook with. (I’m not sure what else one would use it for… paint palette? Paperweight? It’s not recyclable, so I guess someone is going to have to come up with a brilliant idea. Is it you? Please share.)

Look at what I’ve been using to cook dinner for my family for about… oh, the entire time I’ve had a family.Damaged glass baking dishes are not safe Joy Makin Mamas

I know. This (or worse) could totally have happened to me:

exploding pyrex Flickr Shane Ede
Let’s order pizza. And buy a new oven.

So when KitchenAid sent me these ceramic casseroles (the Streamline Ceramic 1.9 quart, and the Nesting Ceramic 4 piece set) to test out in exchange for my honest and explosion-free feedback, I breathed a sigh of relief. Because one recommendation for avoiding the danger of glass failure is to use ceramic casseroles instead. So they are safer, number one. Number two: they are so pretty! And- guess what? These five dishes take up less room than my three old ones in my cabinets. Since I have a small, mid-century kitchen and two very destructive boys, shelf space is at a premium- especially up high for breakables. I know, we’re only a little way into this and I’ve already detailed at least two precautions I’ve taken against my children being injured by shattered cookery. The world is a dangerous place.Kitchenaid ceramic casserole dishes review Joy Makin Mamas
Since I’ve seen first hand how long-lived KitchenAid products are, I expect that these will outstrip their five year warranty by a lot. After all, the KitchenAid stand mixer that my mother bought when I was a kid- and which inspired the purchase of my own, beloved stand mixer- is still chugging along without a single hiccup. And considering how much my mother uses it, I’ve basically just told you that it will never die. I really like that the handle with the recessed bottom makes it easy to hang onto these casseroles. I have (soon will have to say, “used to have”) a set of ceramic casseroles that have two sizes with no handles and one size with very small, smooth handles. I am constantly afraid I will drop them on the way out of the oven. It’s just awkward to lift them when they are full of heavy food, and the last thing I want to do after I’ve prepared a delicious dish for my family is drop it and splatter it all over the kitchen. If I just want to get takeout, I don’t have to work that hard.

Now. You know I cannot just show you some pretty casserole dishes and call it a day. That would be like returning a borrowed plate without any cookies on it. (I’m not a complete barbarian. I may cut corners on party planning, but there are certain things that just don’t call for compromises.)

I was a vegetarian for over eight years, and I still have close family members who are vegetarian. All our family dinners go both ways- with vegetarian options and omnivorous ones. One of my biggest frustrations as a vegetarian cook is the fact that once you take Canned Cream of Something soup out of the equation, your easy, one dish, comfort meal options disappear. I personally like to create vegetarian casseroles that do well as the center dish or that coordinate with traditional holiday dishes, and this Cranberry Barley Casserole (with a vegan variation for my dairy free friends) would be delicious alongside your Thanksgiving feast.

barley casserole recipe Joy Makin Mamas

Cranberry Barley Vegetarian Casserole
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Serves: 8
 
This vegetarian casserole with vegan variations can be the star of the show next to a green vegetable or salad, or join a buffet of options for every dietary preference. The tart cranberries make a nice contrast to the other flavors, and the barley and lentils give plenty of texture. (No mushy casseroles for us!)
Ingredients
  • 2 shallots sliced thinly
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • ½ cup lentils rinsed and picked over
  • 2½ cups vegetable stock
  • ½ cup unsweetened or low sugar dried cranberries
  • ½ cup cheddar cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and grease the inside of a 1.9 quart casserole dish with lid.
  2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add the shallots, fennel, sesame seeds, paprika, and garlic to the pan and sautee until the shallots are translucent. This only takes a couple of minutes.
  4. Add the barley and lentils. Stir until the contents are well mixed.
  5. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a low boil.
  6. Stir in cranberries and transfer to the casserole.
  7. Bake covered for 30 mintues.
  8. Remove cover, top with cheese, and bake for 15 more minutes.
Notes
To make this dish vegan, use canola oil and a pinch of salt in place of the butter. Instead of cheddar cheese, pulse ⅓ cup raw sunflower seeds and ¼ cup nutritional yeast together in your food processor until the texture looks like coarse crumbs, and use as a topping.

Cranberry Barley Casserole Recipe Joy Makin Mamas

Skillet Coq au Vin (with Chicken and Vegetarian versions!)

skillet coq au vin recipeOne dish dinners make scheduling a cinch. You won’t need much to go along with this- maybe some rice or a green vegetable. So cleanup will be easy, too. During my vegetarian years, I used vegetable stock and a good seitan in place of the chicken. If you want to prep this and then put it in a slow cooker on low, you can double it. For a family meal, three pounds of chicken pieces and doubling the other ingredients will also work. (I find that without bones, the white meat dries out too much, but boneless thighs would probably do fine.)

This version is not strictly traditional, I’m quite sure. I didn’t research how it ought to be done or sample authentic coq au vin… I just tinkered around and made changes until I had a dish I liked. But it’s got chicken, and it’s got wine, and it’s darn good, so coq au vin I shall call it. I like to serve this as a “company” dish with butter noodles or plain rice, or with a green salad and crusty bread for soaking up the sauce. Because trust me… you’ll want to eat the sauce. As a shortcut, I sometimes use baby carrots, but look for the really small ones. More slender pieces of carrot get a better texture in this recipe than thicker ones.

Skillet Coq au Vin
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Serves: 2
 
I found the original for this recipe in one of those regional cookbooks you can find in used book stores- the self-published ones that are full of personality and delightful surprises. After significant changes to accommodate my preferences, this became one of my signature dishes.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup red wine (cheap works. I've tried a number of kinds and thought they were all fine.)
  • 2 skinless, bone-in chicken breasts
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 carrots, halved or quartered lengthwise depending on thickness
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ cup flour
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil on medium high heat.
  2. Coat chicken breasts thoroughly with pepper and flour.
  3. Brown chicken breasts in oil on both sides. (About 6-10 minutes.)
  4. Remove chicken to a plate and cover. Add onions and garlic to skillet. Sautee about 1 minute.
  5. Add mushrooms and sautee until tender, about 2 minutes.
  6. Return chicken to skillet. Add remaining ingredients and simmer 1 hour (or more) until done.
Notes
Note: It's probably not according to Hoyle, but I prefer baby bella mushrooms in this. I find they are harder to overcook than other kinds of mushrooms. I have used beef stock in a pinch and it came out just fine. Enjoy!

 

Lunchtime SOS! Lunch ideas plus The Best Egg Salad EVER

No more lunch rut! Quick, easy, nutritious lunch ideas for busy moms & DadsGood morning, Joy Makin’ Mamas. Let’s have lunch. No, really, I want to talk about lunch!

It’s so easy to get into a rut here. I mean, if breakfast is “the most important meal of the day,” and dinner is the meal that brings your family together, that doesn’t leave a lot of time and energy for lunch ideas. Am I right? So let’s shake things up with a little Lunchbox Rescue! Today I want to talk about OUR lunch. You know, put on your own oxygen mask first? If you’ve got a fantastic kids’ lunch idea, send it to me– I’m working on a kids’ lunch post for next week! Continue reading Lunchtime SOS! Lunch ideas plus The Best Egg Salad EVER

Mary-Alice’s No Honey Honey chicken

No Honey Honey Chicken RecipeWhen I went away to college and got the rudest dietary shock of my entire life, I used to dream about this chicken at night. It is so, so, SO good and you never get tired of it. I even developed a vegan version of it during my vegetarian/dairy intolerant years, because I couldn’t live without it. The vegan version isn’t QUITE the same, but it’s very very good, and I served it to many a tofu hater who was pleasantly surprised to find they liked it.

The chicken recipe is also included in our Joy Troupe Family Favorites cookbook, but this is the official internet debut of the vegan version. (Odd since I’m once again an omnivore, but I’m still a veg*an sympathizer!) Want to pin this recipe? Click here.

Mary-Alice's No Honey Honey chicken
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Serves: 6
 
this delicious chicken recipe is great immediately, perfect for buffet service, holds well, reheats well, freezes well, basically does everything well. It is the perfect food.
Ingredients
  • 2-3 lbs chicken parts
  • 3 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 5 oz soy sauce
  • 1 stick butter
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients except chicken in sauce pan and melt over medium heat. Pour over clean chicken parts in baking dish and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 90 minutes.
Notes
TIPS: I use reduced sodium soy sauce and cheap maple syrup. The meat comes out very tender and has a nice, dark color to it. It makes great party wings. The only caveat is to make sure the pan you use isn't too big, or the tops of the chicken pieces will dry out and will not have the nice flavor of the rest. This is excellent served with egg noodles and salad. CROCK POT LOVERS: Rejoice- you can do this in the slow cooker if you substitute boneless, skinless thighs for the chicken pieces.

If you have ever had this, you will never, ever forget it, and you will always want more! Now, for the vegan version. If you are NOT vegan and you are making this for someone who is, be aware that “cheap” maple syrups may not be vegan, so get the real stuff.
Meghan's No Honey Honey Tofu
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Serves: 8
 
This is my vegan version of my favorite chicken dish of all time.
Ingredients
  • 2 blocks of extra firm tofu
  • 1 block silken tofu
  • 5 oz soy sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil (peanut or canola are my preference, but sesame is nice too.)
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • pinch of nutritional yeast (optional)
Instructions
  1. Slice the extra firm tofu approximately ¾" thick, and drain on towels for about ½ hour.
  2. Combine soy sauce, maple syrup, vegetable oil, salt, and nutritional yeast.
  3. Lay extra firm tofu slices in a single layer in a baking dish. Crumble the silken tofu and spread evenly over top.
  4. Pour sauce over tofu and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour, until the tofu has darkened and the sauce has started to caramelize on top. (Sort of looks like the skin on pudding.)
Notes
I've also done this in the crock pot, but I don't remember how long it took. Four hours is a reasonable starting point if you want to experiment with it.

Both versions of this recipe are perfect served with rice or noodles and a green vegetable. I personally think green beans with almonds set the whole thing off just right, and the sauce from the pan over some noodles is almost better than the main event! Enjoy!

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