Cottage Cooking Club – April 2017

Black pepper, rosemary, & smoked paprika cornbread

April was a whirlwind for me, so I’m only just posting my contribution to the Cottage Cooking Club now.

I’ve been trying a lot of cornbread recipes lately, both savoury and sweet, trying to find one that’s a good fit for some of the soups and stews I’ve been making this rainy spring season. The cornbread from River Cottage Everyday bridges the gap between savoury and sweet nicely for me and it just may become the house favourite here.

There’s only a tablespoon of honey in this bread, but it’s enough for me, especially for the variation I improvised with rosemary, black pepper and smoked Paprika. I also substituted some bacon fat for half the butter in this recipe, which made it even smokier. This recipe is infinitely variable, I used yogurt, but buttermilk is also an option. Add-ins include grated cheese or fresh corn, minced jalapeño or green onion, all sorts of spices and herbs – whatever piques your interest or suits your menu.

It paired well with the soup I keep making (and changing) this spring, a smoky turkey and green split pea soup that’s thick and rich, perfect for rainy day eating. I’m going to share the “recipe” with you, but it’s really just a jumping off point. This soup changes based on what’s in my fridge – my latest version included a quick stock made from the leftovers of a rotisserie chicken, some diced turkey, and (brilliantly) some diced leftover roasted sweet potato that had been seasoned with rosemary and chili flakes. The sweet potato would carry a vegan version of this soup very well.

Smoky Turkey and Green Split Pea Soup

Smoky Turkey & Green Split Pea Soup

  • 2 tbsp. butter, oil, and/or bacon fat
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small leek, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 tsp. dried basil (or 1 tbsp. fresh)
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano (or 1-2 tsp. fresh)
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 cups turkey or chicken stock and/or water
  • 2 cups green split peas, soaked overnight, drained, and rinsed
  • a rind from some smoked Parmesan
  • 1 cup diced cooked turkey
  • a dash of pomegranate molasses or the juice of half a lemon (optional)
  • a few slices of cooked bacon, chopped (optional)
  • grated smoked Parmesan (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the fat in a large soup pot over medium heat, add the onion, then turn heat to low. Add the onions with a little salt. Stir occasionally, until they are starting to brown a little. Add the garlic and cook until it becomes translucent. Turn the heat to medium and add the leek, carrots, and celery, then cook until they begin to soften. Add the herbs and spices, with a few grinds of pepper and a little more salt, then stir them around a little to help release their flavour.

Add the stock and/or water and split peas, then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat until the soup is at a simmer. Drop in the smoked Parmesan rind, then cook until the split peas start to become tender. If the soup starts to become too thick at any point, add more water or stock as needed.

Add the diced turkey and continue to simmer the soup until the split peas are soft – usually 30-40 minutes, but it may take longer. Check for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper, if necessary.

When ready to serve, stir in a dash of pomegranate molasses or the juice of half a lemon, if desired. Garnish with chopped, cooked bacon and/or grated smoked Parmesan, if desired.

This soup is adaptable to whatever you’ve got on hand, but here are a few ideas:

  • Use diced chicken in place of the turkey
  • Add diced roasted sweet potato with the turkey
  • Use a rind of Gruyère in place of the smoked Parmesan and season with thyme and rosemary
  • Skip the animal products and use a touch more smoked paprika, for a hearty vegan soup

You can find the rest of the group’s posts, here. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers while creating some wonderful meals.

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Cottage Cooking Club – March 2017

Ten Minute Chocolate Chip Cookies

This month hasn’t been one for cooking very much from cookbooks for me. There have been a lot of improvised meals and dishes that I cook from memory and adjust to what I have on hand. The list of dishes that I can rely on that way has grown year-by-year and I have my love of cookbooks to thank for that, along with the guidance of many good cooks, starting with my mother.

I include chocolate chip cookies on the list of foods I can make without reference to a recipe, but I’m always interested in trying new recipes for them. I don’t have a Platonic ideal recipe for these cookies – I am happy whether they’re chewy, crispy, cakey, or barely there between chunks of chocolate. I’ve enjoyed them with all sorts of flour combinations, add ins, and variations. So I’m open to any new twist or trick I can add to my chocolate chip cookie repertoire.

This recipe promised a crispy cookie, but I ended up with one that was fluffier, instead. I’m not sure if it was the addition of oats (a variation on the oatmeal raisin variation given in the recipe), if it was my conversion of the recipe from weights to cups, or if it was a misinterpretation of a British ingredient. I suspect it was the conversion. No matter, though, because the cookies were delicious, even if they looked nothing like their inspiration.

I added a little more salt, along with some cardamom and nutmeg, to the recipe, otherwise I think they’d have been under-seasoned. That might be my North American palate speaking, or the garden-variety butter I used.

I expect I’ll cook a little more from cookbooks next month, especially as spring has begun in earnest here and early local produce will soon appear. I’ve got some River Cottage recipes bookmarked for just that reason.

You can find the rest of the group’s posts, here. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers while creating some wonderful meals.

Cottage Cooking Club – February 2017

River Cottage Everyday & Love Your Leftovers

The Cottage Cooking Club is back, for a six-month journey through two more River Cottage cookbooks, River Cottage Everyday and River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers. Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness is taking a more free-wheeling approach to this iteration of the club, asking members to choose whichever recipes strike their fancy and post about them on the 28th of each month.

River Cottage Veg is one of my go to cookbooks for simple weeknight eating, so I was happy to add River Cottage Everyday to my collection. And I fell in love with Love Your Leftovers when I reviewed it just before the holidays.

I hope to cook a little more from both books over the next few months, but for this month, I’m starting with a snack that is cheaper and better for you than its supermarket counterparts.

Honey and Peanut Butter Booster Bars

Honey and Peanut Butter Booster Bars

I couldn’t wait until these were cooled completely to cut a couple of tester squares. If I’d waited until they were completely cool, they would have had straighter edges, but it was worth it. These bars are a perfect snack, warm or cold. They have a fair amount of sugar and butter in them, but they’re also full of dried fruit and seeds. I chose dried cranberries, hemp hearts, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds. Along with the chunky peanut butter and oats, I’d say they make these bars a healthy choice.

They’re naturally gluten-free (as long as you use gluten-free safe oats) and they’d be easy to make vegan, with golden syrup in place of honey and a healthy-ish margarine standing in for the butter.

I love this kind of recipe, because the results can be as varied as the contents of your pantry and you can customize them as much as you like. I’ve found this to be a hallmark of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipes, one of the many things that brings me back to his cookbooks so frequently. I’m sure I’ll find a host of new favourites while working through this round of the club.

You can find the rest of the group’s posts, here. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers while creating some wonderful meals.

Food Revolution Day 2016

Food Revolution 2016

Since 2013, I’ve been celebrating Food Revolution Day with a group of bloggers that met when we worked through Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. We’ve all moved on to other projects, together and separately, and added new blogging colleagues along the way.

Today, we’re convening again to contribute our voices to Food Revolution’s mission: to talk about how “children access, consume and understand food” and to ensure they have “access to good, fresh, nutritious food for generations to come.”

Our celebration is taking place across two cook-along groups started by alumni of French Fridays with Dorie: Cook the Book Fridays and The Cottage Cooking Club. We have one Food Revolution Ambassador in each group, Mardi of eat. live. travel. write and Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness, and each had a unique take on this year’s Food Revolution Day theme, which is #FeedtheFuture. Jamie Oliver released ten recipes to learn and share that he believes can teach you all the skills you need to feed yourself for the rest of your life. Using this as a template, each of our Food Revolution Ambassadors came up with challenges appropriate to the book their group is working with.

Cook the Book Fridays: Ham, Blue Cheese, and Pear Quiche

Ham, Blue Cheese, and Pear Quiche

Mardi has taken the lead on Food Revolution Day, first in French Fridays with Dorie and now in Cook the Book Fridays. She chose David LebovitzHam, Blue Cheese, and Pear Quiche from My Paris Kitchen for the group to prepare this week, as a “must know” recipe. Quiche is almost infinitely variable, and can accommodate gluten-free, vegetarian, and even vegan diets, with some simple ingredient substitutions.

It’s a dish that highlights a skill that’s just as important for a healthful diet as the ones covered in Jamie Oliver’s “starter pack” of healthy recipes – baking. Knowing how to make your own crusts, breads, and pastries can empower you to choose the best ingredients and use them in delicious and healthy proportions.

Quiche is also a great dish to help you avoid food waste – nearly anything in your fridge that needs using can be put into a quiche. And if you get into the habit of keeping savoury tart doughs in your freezer, it’s easily a weeknight meal option or a last minute potluck solution. I’m exemplifying this tonight – the quiche is in the oven while I’m writing this post.

I decided to follow Mardi’s lead and “minify” this recipe. I made muffin-tin servings of quiche, which are easy to share. I made the full recipe of tart dough, freezing half. My quiche crust is an interesting colour – I used organic blue cornmeal in place of yellow cornmeal, as that’s what I had on hand. It’s ground to a fine texture, which is a plus for a crust. Cornmeal can often lend a gritty texture to doughs like this.

I halved the quiche filling, though. I’ve only got so many taste-testers available this weekend. I didn’t vary David’s recipe and I’m glad. This is a rich, sophisticated quiche. Ham, blue cheese, and pear are classic flavour partners. That said, I’ll use this quiche recipe as a jumping off point whenever I have some cream cheese hanging out in my refrigerator. As I said before, a world of possibilities can be contained in the crust of a quiche.

You might notice there aren’t any photos of my quiches. It was dark by the time I finished my post, so I’ll add some tomorrow, so you can see them at their best.

Three mini quiches

You can read through the Cook the Book Fridays crew posts for this Food Revolution Day here. And consider joining this community of wonderful cooks and lovely people, as we work our way through David LebovitzMy Paris Kitchen.

The Cottage Cooking Club

Since we just wrapped up cooking our way through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall´s River Cottage Veg, Andrea took a different route for this group’s challenge. She asked us to choose up to ten recipes from the book that qualify as “must know” dishes and to share the techniques and skills we learned in making them.

My mind turned to categories, rather than specific dishes, so I’ll share a few of the things that River Cottage Veg helped improve in my own kitchen.

Roasting deepens flavour

Roast until fabulous

If you were brought up the way I was, most vegetables got roasted alongside cuts of meats or as a part of stews. Otherwise, they received a stove top or steamer treatment. But, roasting brings out the best in many vegetables and several of Hugh’s recipes are oven-roasted improvements on stove top staples.

Oven Roasted Roots Frittata

Oven Roasted Ratatouille and Roasted Tomato Sauce

Roasted Roots with Apple and Rosemary

Homemade sauces and condiments are easy and delicious

Dressings and Condiments

You really don’t know how good something can be until you’ve eaten it fresh out of the kitchen. Condiments and dressings are easy to make and so much better than the ones you can buy at the supermarket. Besides, you’ll improve your knife skills when you process all those beautiful aromatics.

Lemony Guacamole

Mojo Sauces

Tomatoes with Thai Dressing

Great flavour starts at the base

Depth of flavour

When you work at creating a delicious flavour base, whether that’s a scratch curry paste or an infusion of dried mushrooms, your dish will be more than the sum of its parts. It doesn’t take long to add flavour, so there’s no reason to skip steps.

Eggplant and Green Bean Curry

Mushroom “Stoup”

Over the last two years, our group picked up or refined cooking skills, encountered new ingredients, and learned new approaches to familiar ones. However, the greatest gift that working through this cookbook gave us was to reinforce the truth that vegetarian and vegan eating can be flavourful, varied, healthy, and more than enough. I think that qualifies as a Food Revolution, don’t you?

You can find the rest of the group’s Food Revolution posts, here. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for healthy, delicious eating.

And you can join in on the Cottage Cooking Club’s next adventure, cooking through one or both of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall´s River Cottage Every Day and Love Your Leftovers – you can find the details, here.

World food waste statistics

I believe that people need access to safe, affordable, whole foods; access to the skills and techniques to prepare foods; and access to the housing, income, and safety that will allow them to cook. This will ensure the health of future generations and the planet, reducing the waste of food, packaging materials, human potential, and environmental resources that an industrial, processed food system can enable. Participating in initiatives like Food Revolution Day can only help those goals along.

You’ll find plenty of posts, photos, videos, and more if you search the #FeedtheFuture and #FoodRevolution tags on your social media channels, encompassing a huge range of perspectives on what it means to bolster food security for coming generations.

Cottage Cooking Club – April 2016

Cherry Blossom Snow

It’s hard to believe we’ve come to the end of our time with River Cottage Veg. Collectively, the bloggers of The Cottage Cooking Club have worked through every one of the 200 recipes included in the cookbook.

This cook-a-long came at a fortuitous time for me. My partner was moving toward veganism and I wanted to build some plant-based cooking into my blogging routine to support him. We’ve always eaten a lot of vegetarian and vegan meals, but ensuring variety is a great incentive to keep going when you’re changing the way you eat.

It was also a chance to keep cooking alongside one of the talented bloggers I’d met through French Fridays with Dorie. Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness posts wonderful recipes with gorgeous photography, in a blog full of family adventures, travel tales, and explorations of her city and region. She’s been a terrific leader, from the structure she devised that allowed the group as a whole to complete the book in two years, to her always supportive comments on every participant’s blog.

My last month didn’t go as planned. I’d promised to blog about three recipes this month, but only managed two – one of which was the wrong variation of the dish. I guess it goes to show that improvisation is as much of a kitchen skill as any of the others that everyday cooks perform.

Oven-Roasted Ratatouille

Oven-Roasted Ratatouille

I made this recipe in March, as I’d gotten a great deal on eggplant and bell peppers and was looking for a tasty way to use them. As luck would have it, this dish was due to come up in our very last rotation.

This is one of the dishes I hadn’t noticed while paging through the cookbook and it’s another one that Kevin wishes I’d made much sooner and often. Oven-roasting brings out the flavour of all the vegetables beautifully. We’ll be making this one as often as we can get our hands on good eggplants – I can hardly wait to try it again in high summer.

Roasted Potatoes and Eggplant

Roasted Potatoes and Eggplant

Another eggplant dish and another recipe in Kevin’s Favourites column. I was supposed to make the spiced eggplants with chickpeas, but when it came time to make my shopping list, I looked at the wrong recipe. We’ve got more eggplant in the refrigerator, so I’ll probably correct this error soon. At least it was a delicious mistake.

Quinoa with Zucchini and Onions

Quinoa with Zucchini and Onions

Speaking of delicious mistakes, this dish was supposed to be quinoa with leeks and squash, but once again, I looked at the wrong recipe. Kevin was pleased with this mistake in particular – he loves zucchini and tolerates squash. I’m happy with either. I skipped the nuts and doubled down on the lemon in this dish. It makes a great side, but a bowlful made a satisfying lunch, too.

That’s it for this month’s selections – I was supposed to make Spiced Spinach and Potatoes as well, but every time I set aside some cooked potatoes for the dish, they ended up being used for something else. I suppose I’ll have to plan to make another dish that uses leftover potatoes, then perhaps I’ll make this dish instead.

The rest of the recipes I tackled this month were from previous months’ selections. I go through periods of focusing more on ingredients than recipes I’ve undertaken to make. It always leads me to recipes I might have overlooked otherwise.

Roasted Tomato Sauce

Oven-Roasted Tomato Sauce

This sauce is a component of several of Hugh’s recipes, so when I picked up a big bag of hothouse tomatoes, I decided to give it a try. Hothouse tomatoes need help and roasting is the best way to get the most flavour out of them. I added some grape tomatoes I had on hand, as well. The sauce is seasoned only with garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper, but it is rich and delicious on its own and even better as the base for soups or stews.

You’re supposed to seed and skin the tomatoes when they’re roasted, but I threw them into the food processor whole. I like using the whole vegetable when I can and there’s pectin in the skins, which helps to thicken the sauce. I know it’s less refined, but for my purposes it worked beautifully. I used it in two more of Hugh’s recipes and had enough left over to enjoy on its own.

Eggplant and Green Bean Curry

Eggplant and Green Bean Curry

It’s been an eggplant kind of month around here, hasn’t it? This dish would be good even with store-bought sauce, but Hugh’s roasted tomato sauce made it fantastic. I especially appreciated that the dish included a homemade curry paste – that’s often the difference between delicious and mediocre with Indian-inspired dishes.

Mexican Tomato and Bean Soup

Tomato and Bean Soup

Hugh’s sauce went to good use in this soup, too, a Mexican-inspired dish that is just fiery enough to wake up the palate without drowning out the other flavours. It should be called double tomato and black bean soup, because there is quite a lot of fresh, diced tomato along with the roasted tomato sauce. This one was a hit at home and then again for my parents. Their only complaint was that the container I’d sent home with my mother was too small.

Cambodian Wedding Day Dip

Cambodian Wedding Dip

This is a recipe that I’ve been meaning to make since I got the book, but I’ve not gotten around to it until now. The combination of cremini mushrooms, coconut milk, curry, and peanut sounded intriguing. Kevin said it put him in mind of a vegan version of chopped liver. It’s certainly meaty enough to use as a sandwich filling, as well as a dip. I’d like to serve it at a tapas party. I think it would be one of the dishes that gets everyone talking.

So that’s it – the last of my posts for this cookbook. While our group may be finished with River Cottage Veg, our household certainly won’t be leaving it on the shelf. There are too many pages marked with notes, variations, and exclamation marks. And there are plenty of bookmarks for recipes we haven’t yet gotten around to trying.

I am excited to see what Hugh has on offer in River Cottage Every Day. I’ll continue cooking along with the group, but I’m going to stick to vegetable-based selections, as I’ve found that this monthly date with plant-based cooking has been great for our diets and palates.

You can find the rest of the group’s wrap up posts, here. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

And you can join in on the Cottage Cooking Club’s next adventure, cooking through one or both of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall´s River Cottage Every Day and Love Your Leftovers – you can find the details, here.

Cottage Cooking Club – March 2016

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Like a horse as it nears the barn, I seem to be speeding through recipes as we reach the end of our time with River Cottage Veg in this group. This month, I managed seven recipes, two of which were ones I’d missed when they’d come up in previous months’ selections.

It’s made for a delicious March.

Nachos with refried beans

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There are as many recipes for refried beans as there are cooks that make them. Hugh’s version is a pantry cupboard wonder, using things I always have on hand. I like the chunky texture, the gentle heat from the fresh red chile and hot smoked paprika, the smooth taste of the cannellini (or borlotti) beans, and the use of grated fresh tomato. I made this twice – once with cannellini beans and once with borlotti and they were equally good. My only change to the recipe was to add 2 or 3 tablespoons of tomato paste along with the fresh tomatoes. That might not be necessary at the height of summer, when tomatoes are at their best, but it really helped bring the flavours together for this late winter version.

As for the nachos, I made a vegan version and a conventional one. I have two small ceramic baking dishes that are about the same size – one got lashings of old cheddar cheese and the other got a generous sprinkling of Daiya cheddar shreds. We finished them off with sour cream (vegan and conventional – it’s our version of his and hers) and some of Hugh’s lemony guacamole.

Lemony guacamole

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This recipe was tackled way back in May of 2014, for our very first Cottage Cooking Club round of posting.

Kevin’s a bit miffed that I overlooked this recipe until almost the very last post for this cookbook – it would have become a staple in our kitchen much sooner, if I hadn’t.

It relies on lemon, cilantro, and fresh red chile to complement the avocado. I skipped adding oil, as it seemed unnecessary, and threw a bit of chopped red onion into the mix. It was perfect with our nachos and adds great flavour as a sandwich spread, too.

The vegiflette toastie

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This one was just for me – I couldn’t resist putting aside a few of the baby potatoes we’d had for dinner so that I could have this toastie for an indulgent Saturday lunch. The topping consists of sliced potatoes heated with a little wilted endive and some heavy cream and I would have enjoyed this if the sandwich had stopped there. The final step is to melt some cheese on top (old cheddar, in this case) and it made the dish absolutely perfect for a rainy day. It was more of a knife and fork affair with the split baguette I used, but that was fine. Not every sandwich needs to be portable.

Dressed Puy lentils

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I make Hugh’s lentils, with their mustardy dressing, at least once a week. We stir them into bowls of roasted potatoes, wilted greens, freshly roasted or steamed vegetables, cold salads, or grains hot or cold. These become one bowl lunches or side dishes at dinner.

There are plenty of other ways to dress lentils, but don’t you find you look back on a period of time and remember a dish or two that kept coming up over and over? It’s been that way with these lentils this winter. It’s not repetition so much as punctuation.

Roasted new potatoes with harissa

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We ate our lentils with these potatoes one night, but it took several tries. The first step in making these is to roast the potatoes with salt and pepper. I usually roast potatoes with herbs and garlic, or onion, or spices – it depends on what I’m serving. These come out of the oven with the more-ish quality of French fries. And we discovered, salt and pepper potatoes go so well with Hugh’s lentils, that you might forget to add harissa altogether. Twice.

With the harissa, they’re good, but honestly, not as good as the plain potatoes. I love harissa as a condiment for soups, stews, and other dishes with a Middle Eastern bent, but I think in this dish, it’s a little wasted.

Vegetable biryani

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I wish I could say we loved this one, but we only liked it. We probably won’t be repeating this version of biryani, but I was especially appreciative of the flavour the brown onions brought to the dish.

Twice-Baked Potatoes

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Finally, there’s a treat that came up in the rotation in November of 2014. I had some beautiful crème fraîche and cultured butter on hand, that I was reviewing for another post earlier this month. This recipe seemed like a perfect way to enjoy it.

I made these potatoes two ways – a vegan version for Kevin, with vegan sour cream, Earth Balance, and Daiya cheddar shreds, and a conventional version for me, with crème fraîche, cultured butter, and old cheddar.

We won’t be having these often, but not because we don’t like them. We loved them. They’re just an indulgence that should be an occasional treat. Although, you can put spinach in them – that makes them good for you, doesn’t it?

As I said, it was a delicious month. I’m looking forward to what April brings.

At the end of the month, you’ll be able to find the rest of the group’s posts, here. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

Cottage Cooking Club – February 2016

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What do you turn to when you’re trying to get through the last weeks of winter eating? Before the celebration of rhubarb and asparagus, radishes and new potatoes, how do you make the last of the cold weather staples more interesting?

I love dried mushrooms (especially porcini), citrus fruits, and the herbs that grow year-round in my garden. Along with pulses, winter greens, and high quality canned or frozen goods, they make these weeks of waiting for new growth bearable. Actually, with a little attention to detail, our meals are rich and delicious.

Potatoes and “Deconstructed Pesto”

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This potato dish is a good example. The basil and lemon were imported, but everything else was local. We roast vegetables often, usually with rosemary and thyme from the back yard. This variation was a treat, especially with shredded Daiya vegan mozzarella. It would have been equally good with a vegan Parmesan (DIY Vegan‘s Garlic Parmesan Shaker is a good place to start, if you’re interested). It’s nice to know that we can have cheesy goodness that satisfies both the vegan and non-vegan members of our household.

White Bean Salad with Tomatoes and Red Onions

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Though tomatoes are best in the summertime, I don’t always say no to the hothouse cherry and grape tomatoes that can be found alongside greenhouse-grown peppers at the fresh markets. It’s hard to turn down jewel-toned vegetables consistently in the name of seasonal eating, isn’t it? Especially when they’re a component of a treat like this. Creamy cannellini beans, tomatoes, and parsley in a lemony mustard dressing. A simple side or healthy winter lunch that’s bright on the tongue and cheerful on the plate.

Chickpea, Chard, and Porcini Soup

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This wasn’t a pick for this month, but one I missed when it came up in the rotation for August, 2015. I couldn’t resist catching up on it this month. As I said at the beginning of the post, I love using dried porcini mushrooms throughout the winter. They make their own stock when you rehydrate them and they lend a rich, meaty undertone to soups and stews. I also keep organic frozen spinach on hand, so when the greens at the market were underwhelming, I pulled some out for this soup. With extra chickpeas and plum tomatoes, it was a truly hearty soup. Next time, I’ll add some sautéed fresh mushrooms, too. Rainy February days call for stick-to-your-ribs fare, don’t you think? This one didn’t need any cheese, vegan or otherwise – it was perfect on its own. It’s also one that can be varied throughout all the seasons, which we’ll certainly be doing.

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The weather’s warming up here, though there’s still lots of rain. I can’t believe we’ve only got two more months’ worth of recipes before The Cottage Cooking Club moves on to two more River Cottage cookbooks!

At the end of the month, you’ll be able to find the rest of the group’s posts, here. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

Cottage Cooking Club – January 2016

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Oh, January, you are the month of good intentions. This post represents one of mine – since I was so tardy posting last month’s CCC entry, I thought I’d post early this time around.

Late winter can start to feel like a march through a string of lacklustre meals until spring’s vegetables rescue us, but meals with warm spices and good quality canned or frozen vegetables can cure that ennui. These meals are certainly perking us up this week.

Curried red lentil soup

Lentil Soup

This soup caused a schism in the household. I gave Kevin a taster bowl of the soup when I’d first puréed it. While he ate it in the living room, I decided it needed a bit more liquid and a creamy element. So, I added a can of light coconut milk and re-adjusted the spices. Meanwhile, he thought it was thick, rich and perfect. Oops! I suppose it’s good to know it works both ways.

This soup is a variation on the Curried Sweet Potato Soup the group tackled in December, 2014. It trades out sweet potatoes for lentils and limes for lemons, while adding some carrot and celery for a little more veggie fortification. Kevin isn’t a sweet potato or yam fan, so this version was a much bigger hit for him than the original.

I was out of garam masala, so I ground another batch. There’s nothing better than cooking with freshly ground spices, is there?

This soup will last us through the week’s lunches and the flavours are so deep, there’s no chance of getting bored. Especially since I’m thinking about baking some biscuits tomorrow, which will be perfect for dipping.

Next time I make this, I’ll leave it thicker, skipping the purée and the coconut milk and serving it over rice. I think that version will mend the rift.

Chickpeas with cumin and spinach

Chickpea Curry

Most of the time, committee meeting nights are for leftovers or meals I’ve cooked and portioned for the freezer. Tonight, though, I was able to put together dinner from scratch in about the same amount of time it would have taken to prepare a pre-cooked meal. Even better, it used staples from my kitchen counter, pantry, and freezer. Paired with some basmati rice, this was practically a fifteen-minute meal. I’m slow though, so it took 20-25 minutes.

Chickpeas and spinach, seasoned with lemon, is the ne plus ultra of quick meals for Kevin, so this dish was right up his alley. Adding tomatoes, cumin, onion, and garlic was like a deluxe upgrade of a simple meal.

I was thrilled to put together a filling and flavourful meal before I had to run out the door. Kevin’s thrilled that there are leftovers for tomorrow. Since I have (yet another) meeting, I’m glad we’re covered.

If I manage to fit in any more of this month’s CCC selections, I’ll post an update. For now, I’m feeling rather happy that I’m writing about food that’s still available to me for meals this week.

At the end of the month, you’ll be able to find the rest of the group’s posts, here. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

Cottage Cooking Club – December 2015

December

This is the week of getting back to normal, so I know I’m not alone in asking you: How were your holidays? Mine were busy and bright, full of food and cheer.

Predictably, I got sick after the holidays, so I’m only now posting my Cottage Cooking Club selections from last month. Since they’re both quite light and healthy, let’s say they’re crossing the boundary from feasting to simply eating well.

Mushroom “Stoup”

Soup

This soup doesn’t set out to be light, but is meant to be almost a stew. It’s jam-packed with porcini and button mushrooms and includes an option for dumplings, which will absorb all the extra liquid, making it thick and rich.

I opted to skip the dumplings. I can make them gluten-free, but Kevin is not a fan of dumplings, so I decided to make a few changes. I halved the amount of porcini mushrooms, as December is an expensive month and I was splurging elsewhere. I added in extra button mushrooms, instead. I also skipped the fresh dill and added some savoury I’d dried from the garden. I used Earth Balance in place of butter, but next time I think I’ll just stick with olive oil. I didn’t like the way the Earth Balance behaved in the soup, never quite incorporating completely.

So, my version was a gluten-free, vegan, slightly soupier one. And it was a huge hit. I made a full recipe and froze half of it. I had to take one of the containers of frozen soup out of the freezer only two days later. I’ll likely have to take the other one out as soon as Kevin reads this post.

I’ll be making this one regularly.

Spicy Carrot and Chickpea Pita Pocket

Carrots

This dish is a tasty antidote to all that Christmas eating. I used gluten-free corn tortillas in place of the pita pockets, which worked very well. As much as I enjoyed this, I kept thinking I’d like to take all the components and transform them into a stew, perhaps with some potatoes for heft. I loved the combination of cumin, hot smoked paprika, and orange with carrots, but craved it in a more bowl-friendly form.

I hope everyone had a good month or so of cheer. I’m looking forward to reading all of the Cottage Cooks’ posts.

Here are the links to the rest of the group’s posts for this month. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

Cottage Cooking Club – November 2015

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November was a busy month. I was home and away, out many evenings, catching up during the day. It felt like holiday celebration and fiscal year end all wrapped up together. I’m happy that December will be a quieter month, with some holiday fun and celebration along the way.

Amidst everything that was going on, I managed to make two CCC recipes in November and they were both delicious.

Parsnip and Ginger Soup 

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I’ve been filling the freezer with containers full of one or two servings of soup. I love making soup in cold weather, in big batches. It’s satisfying on the day it’s made, then the flavours develop over a day or two, making it even more delicious. I always try to put some away, though, for those days when it’s wet and miserable and I’m too cold and tired to cook from scratch. Those days, soup isn’t just satisfying, it’s sustaining.

This soup will be perfect for those days. It’s filling and spicy, fragrant with ginger and cardamom. The parsnips retain a little of their sharpness, which works in this soup. I froze some without adding any milk, the final step in the recipe, as soup freezes much better without it. I added a little almond milk to the soup we ate, to keep things vegan, then sprinkled a few toasted pumpkin seeds on top.

Even though I said the sharpness of the parsnips works in this soup, I’ll roast them the next time I make this. I think the caramelized sweetness of roasted parsnips would put this soup over the top for me.

Roasted New Potatoes with Two Mojo Sauces

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We roast potatoes all the time, tossed in olive oil, herbs and spices, with cloves of garlic along for the ride. What we don’t do very often is make roasted potatoes the focus of an appetizer.

That’s a mistake I’m happy to have corrected. These potatoes are parboiled, then roasted tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper. (I’d skip the boil next time, just because I love the crust that simply roasted potatoes develop.) Then, they’re served with two Canary Island inspired dipping sauces.

The first sauce,mojo cilantro, is garlicky and vegetal, creamy without any added dairy. It’s good enough that I’ll make it again, but it wasn’t the star of the show. That was the mojo picón. I roasted and peeled red bell peppers for this one and it was worth the effort. With hot chiles, cumin, and smoked paprika rounding out the flavours, this sauce is hard to stop eating. We should have roasted more potatoes.

Here’s to the start of a wonderful holiday season! I’m looking forward to reading all the CCC cooks’ posts.

Here are the links to the rest of the group’s posts for this month. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

Have you checked out my holiday cookbook review series? There are copies of 5 great cookbooks up for grabs. You can find the links to the giveaways (as they go live) here.