Monday, March 31, 2014

Maple Pecan-Crusted Salmon

This recipe was very quick and easy, and popular with everyone at my table. I've written it for two, but it doubles or triples (or more) very easily. The panko crumbs add a great crunch, so don't substitute regular bread crumbs here. Try crushed crackers or croutons instead.
  • 2 (4-ounce) salmon fillets
  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • 3 T finely chopped pecans
  • 2 T panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • ¼ tsp salt
Preheat oven to 325º. Combine glaze ingredients. Toast pecans and bread crumbs briefly in a skillet over medium heat, removing as soon as the pecans are fragrant. Combine with basil and salt.

Brush sides and bottom of fillets with glaze and place in a small baking dish. Brush tops very generously (use it all up). Pat half of crust onto the top of each fillet. Bake 15–20 minutes, until flaky.

Serves 2.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Five Favorite Ways to Add Savory Flavor to Meatless Meals

Linking up with Moxie Wife! If you're joining us from over there, be sure to have a look at our recipe archives for lots of Lenten meal ideas!

Several years of meatless Lents has yielded some delicious meals, and some that are ... lacking. To really make a meatless dish taste like dinner, it helps to have a few tricks up your sleeve to make up for what is lacking. Here are a few favorite tricks I've learned over the years to keep your diners from asking "Where's the beef?"

1) Parmesan
(Source: Flickr user cosmos_72)
Sure, you always sprinkle a little on your spaghetti, but meatless dishes are the time to really get serious about your Parmesan. Grate it fresh off the block or slice off curls with a vegetable peeler, and use it to top bowls of soup and salad, stir it into risotto, and put a healthy layer on top of that pizza. You won't even miss the pepperoni.

2) Dried Mushrooms
(Source: Flickr user Artizone)
Simmer them in your broth, or crumble/grind them up and use them like a seasoning. Farmhouse Vegetable Soup combines them with soy sauce to make a rich broth. You can usually find porcinis and others at your regular grocery store, but Asian markets tend to have shiitakes for a more reasonable price.

3) Asian Sauces
You can get pretty adventurous with these, or just stick with soy sauce if you'd rather. Tamari is a thicker, smoother-flavored soy sauce. Fish sauce can be used pretty much anywhere you'd use soy sauce, but a little goes a very long way (and when you're not cooking meatless, try it in burgers!) Miso is a Japanese ingredient that can go with just about anything you can think of.

4) Tomatoes
There's a reason tomatoes form the base for so many condiments: they're packed with flavorful glutamates, the same flavor compounds found in beef. Brown some tomato paste (as in Gardener's Pie) or add some sun-dried tomatoes (like in our taco lentils) to get this flavor in concentrated form. And don't forget to put a small tomato in your stock pot!

5) Smoke
Roast those vegetables, caramelize your onions, toast some nuts. Getting some browning going will add a lot of depth of flavor. There's a reason grilled meat tastes so good, and the same flavors build (on a smaller scale), when you brown your vegetables. If your recipe or ingredients don't lend themselves to browning, a bit of liquid smoke or spices like smoked paprika or chipotle powder will do. This is an especially good trick for recipes like split pea or potato soup, where you might be feeling the lack of bacon.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Tomato Soup for Two

This tomato soup recipe is both easy and easily customizable. I used red pepper and sherry, but you could do a version with fresh basil and extra garlic, or substitute some cream for some of the bread and broth. Feel free to sub in canned or frozen tomatoes if that's what you have on hand.

  • 1¼ pounds tomatoes, peeled (optional) and roughly chopped
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pinch hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 slices sandwich bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
  •  cups vegetable broth
  • 1–2 T sherry (optional)
  • salt and pepper
Place tomato pieces in a medium-sized mixing bowl and sprinkle with 1 tsp salt. Toss to combine and let sit.

Heat oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and red pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent and a bit browned.

Stir in tomatoes and their juice. Stir in sugar and bread; bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are cooked and start to break down.

Transfer soup to a blender (if this would fill your blender more than 2/3 full, process in two batches), cover blender with a towel, and process until soup is smooth and creamy.

Return soup to pot; stir in enough broth to create the desired consistency, along with the sherry, if using. Return soup to a boil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Lentil Taco "Meat"

I'm not sure why I've shied away from lentils for so long (probably a bland childhood experience), but I decided to pick up some of the pretty French green ones last time I was at the natural foods store, and we've been having a field day with them this Lent. They're packed with protein (more than every bean but soy), and take a fraction of the time to cook, which is great if your meal-planning skills, like mine, don't usually extend to the night before.
The three-year-old "Makin' 'mollys'." He even ate them. ;-)
This recipe for taco filling is packed with flavor, and can be used pretty much anywhere you'd use meat. Half of ours went into tamales, with the rest reappearing from the freezer for taco salad.

Serves four.
(recipe source)

2 T olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp cumin
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp chili powder
½ tsp chipotle powder (or, use all regular chili powder and a dash of liquid smoke)
1 T tomato paste
½ tsp toasted sesame oil
1 cup dry lentils (any variety but red or yellow)
1½ cups water
1 T white vinegar
¼ cup smoked sundried tomatoes, finely chopped

In a skillet or large saucepan over medium heat, add the olive oil and onion. Saute until translucent, then add the cumin, salt, chili powders, and tomato paste. Cook for a minute or so until fragrant. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20–30 minutes until liquid is absorbed and lentils are tender but not falling apart.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Meatless Meals for the Feast of St. Patrick

We here at Chez Thérèse go meatless all of Lent, but we also love to celebrate St. Patrick's feast. While fish and chips are always a tasty option, I don't exactly feel like going to the trouble of deep frying. So, I'm thinking a lovely Gardener's Pie is in our near future.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Meatless Sloppy Joes

I made these last night, and they were a big hit with one and all. It's amazing what some ketchup with your vegetables can do. :-) Dicing all those vegetables can take a while, so start it while you are cooking the lentils.

Makes 8 sandwiches.

3 T olive oil, divided
16 ounces mushrooms, diced
1 tsp. or cube bouillon
1 large onion, diced (1 cup)
¼ cup dry white wine
2 large carrots, diced (1 cup)
2 stalks celery, diced (½ cup)
1 large bell pepper, diced (1 cup)
1½ cups cooked lentils
1 cup ketchup
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp mustard

In a 12" frying pan warm 2 T olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the mushrooms until the liquid has evaporated and they brown a bit. Remove from pan.

Add remaining 1 T of oil to the pan, along with onion and bouillon. Saute until bouillon is dissolved and onion is translucent. Pour in the wine and scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Cook until the wine has evaporated. Add the carrots, celery, and pepper; cook for about 5 minutes until tender.

Return the mushrooms to the pan, along with the remaining ingredients; cook over low until warmed through. Salt and pepper to taste, and serve on toasted buns.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Hearth Bread

If you got hit by this latest snow storm as badly as we did here, you probably have soup on your mind. Nothing helps a meatless soup become a full meal quite like a loaf of homemade bread. My current favorite is this recipe from King Arthur Flour. It's easy enough for a bread-baking novice to turn out an impressive loaf, and can come together in as little as two hours (use your microwave as a proofing box to speed things up). The three of us can easily devour an entire warm loaf in the course of a dinner, but if you do have some leftovers, it makes fantastic croutons.
  • 1 T (1 packet) active dry yeast
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 T salt
  • 2 cups warm water (105-110°F)
  • 5½ to 6 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • cornmeal
  • boiling water

Mix together the first four ingredients. Let stand until the yeast, sugar, and salt are dissolved. Gradually add the flour to the liquid and mix thoroughly until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface to knead.

Knead for five minutes, sprinkling only enough flour on your kneading surface to prevent sticking. Let the dough rest while you scrape out and grease the mixing bowl. Knead the dough again for two to three minutes. Return the dough to the bowl and turn it over once to grease the top. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the dough doubles in bulk, about one to two hours.

Turn out the dough and cut in half. Shape each half into two Italian- or French-style loaves by flattening into a rectangle and rolling up, pinching the ends to seal. Place the loaves on a cookie sheet generously sprinkled with cornmeal.

Let the loaves rest for 5 minutes. Lightly slash the tops of the loaves three or more times diagonally (a kitchen scissor works well for this) and brush them with cold water. Place on rack in a cold oven with a roasting pan full of boiling water on the bottom rack. Bake at 400°F for 35 to 45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and sounds hollow to the touch.

For a lighter, crustier bread, let your shaped loaves rise for 45 minutes. Preheat the oven and roasting pan with water to 500°F for 15 minutes. Brush the loaves with cold water, place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 400°F and bake for 10 more minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool and devour!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Five Favorites: Meatless Meals for Kids

You can only do cheese pizza and macaroni so many times (though if you are doing macaroni, I can't recommend this one enough). So, here are five favorite Friday meals from the archives that are kid approved:

1) Sweet Potato Latkes
Crispy and fried are two favorite food groups in this house. Luckily, you're getting plenty of good nutrients from the sweet potatoes, too. Mix up a creamy dipping sauce and enjoy!

2) Enchiladas
We've posted lots of enchilada recipes over the years. The Roasted Vegetable enchiladas above are a bit adventurous, but it's hard to imagine an eater too picky for Three Cheese Enchiladas. The bean and rice options usually get gobbled up, too.

3) Pumpkin Ravioli
These sound a little exotic, but the flavors are pure comfort food. Let them help assemble, and they won't be able to resist.

4) Apples Au Gratin
The very idea of apples for dinner merits at least a taste, right? They'll be hooked after that.

5) Pasta Limone
An introduction to the world beyond mac and cheese. The creamy, lemony sauce keeps things simple, and you can easily stir in some sauteed vegetables to make this a complete meal.

Bonus: Lenten ideas for your lunchboxes.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Stepping Up Your Grilled Cheese Game

Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup is a staple of meatless Lents, and although they can be pretty run-of-the-mill food, it's possible to elevate them to another level.

Let's start with the tomato soup.  Until I made this version, I had never been able to get past bite #2 of a bowl of tomato soup.  Then I made this, at the request of a husband who's very fond of soup with his grilled cheese.

Creamy Tomato Soup
1 medium onion
2 Tbsp butter
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 cans tomato soup or cartons of soup (Aldi sells a Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Soup that's excellent here)
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 8 oz package cream cheese, cubed

Saute onions in butter. Stir in tomatoes, soup, milk, and spices. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer ten minutes. Stir in cheese until melted (or "melty").

Now let's move on to the sandwich portion of our meal.  For tips on your grilled-cheese technique, check out The Kitchn.  For a recipe that takes some special ingredients but will knock your socks off, try Ina Garten's Ultimate Grilled Cheese (omit the bacon for a meatless sandwich).  And finally, an option for your cheese-averse child (don't laugh, and don't worry - I grew out of it): a grilled peanut butter sandwich is a great alternative.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Meatless: Pumpkin Ravioli

This recipe might seem a little exotic and intimidating if you've never made fresh pasta before, but a long rest and extra yolks make it relatively easy to roll out, even without a pasta machine. Pumpkin-filled pasta is a specialty of the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy, and, more importantly for me, seems to be a great hit with picky eaters!
So easy, a child could do it! (sort of.)


  • 2 c flour
  • 3 eggs (or 2 eggs and 2 yolks, if rollling by hand)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 T olive oil


  • 1 c pumpkin puree
  • 1 c grated Parmesan (grated very finely on a Microplane; use less if it is more coarsely grated)
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼–½ c bread crumbs
  • salt to taste


  • 4 T butter
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced
  • 2 tsp. fresh sage
Place flour on countertop, create a large well in the middle. Add the other ingredients to the well and beat with a fork, slowly incorporating flour. Knead until smooth and well-combined, and shape into a log. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest on counter, 15 minutes if rolling by machine, and 1–4 hours if rolling by hand.

For filling, combine pumpkin, cheese, egg, and nutmeg. Add bread crumbs a couple tablespoons at a time, until mixture is thick enough to stand in coherent spoonfuls.

To shape pasta, divide into six pieces and roll out, on an unfloured surface, one at a time to approximately 6"x18", and see-through, about 1/32" thick. (If rolling by hand, alternate rolling and stretching for best results.) Place four or five scant-tablespoon portions along one side of the sheet, a couple of inches apart, and trace around each with a fingertip dipped in water. Fold the sheet in half, cut in between the scoops of filling, and press edges around each to seal.

To make sauce, melt butter over medium heat in a shallow pan or skillet, until it just begins to brown (it's easiest to see this in a light colored pan. Add shallot and cook until softened (butter will continue to brown). Remove from heat, add sage and set aside while pasta cooks.

Cook pasta four or six at a time in boiling salted water for about 5 minutes. Toss with sauce and serve immediately with plenty of extra Parmesan. 

Notes: I ended up with 24 ravioli, with about 1/3 of the filling left over. I think if I were using a pasta machine, I would have been able to get the pasta rolled thinner, and probably used all the filling on 36 ravioli. 

To freeze, place uncooked ravioli on a baking rack for half an hour or so, until surface is slightly dry. Freeze with parchment or wax paper between layers.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

"What's for dinner?": Friday edition

I realize this may have been helpful to have a few days ago, but I just read a very helpful article entitled 12 Meatless Lent Meal Ideas: Your Strategy for Lent’s Meatless Fridays and I was inspired to actually do that for a change (instead of my desperation cheese-pizza plan).

Read the article, then, if it’s helpful to you, print a copy of the Lenten Meal Plan sheets I made and start on your own offensive strategy (offensive in the sports sense and not in the “stuff my family is sure to dislike” sense J).

You may want to start with the Church Ladies' 40 meatless meals label in the sidebar, and thanks to Taylor Marshall for the inspiration!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Good Foundation: Making your own stock (for free!)

So many dinner recipes start out with stock, and a good stock is especially important to the flavor of a meatless dish. For a long time I was intimidated of making stock by all the cookbooks that began: "Start out with only the freshest vegetables ..." If I was going to all the trouble of buying and preparing vegetables, just to throw them out at the end of the process, why not just buy a carton of stock?

Eventually, though, I started to notice all of the produce that started to wilt before I could get around to it (some things, unfortunately, you just can't buy one or two of) and I decided to just see what I could do with these odds and ends, figuring I had nothing to lose.

I was surprised to find that I could come up with something as good or better than storebought, using only what I would have thrown out anyway. I've taken to keeping a container in my freezer for the trimmings and anything that looks like it might head south soon, and, when it gets full, tossing it all in my dutch oven to simmer, covered with water.

Some of the items that make it into my pot:
  • celery tops, bottoms, and leaves, and the last few stalks that inevitably end up limp in my vegetable drawer
  • carrot peelings and ends (be sure to scrub the carrots well!), and any carrots that have started to go a bit rubbery
  • onion tops, and any layers that are too peel-y to use, but not yet papery 
  • tomato ends and leftovers (this adds a nice savory flavor and body, but don't add too much, or it will start to overwhelm the stock)
  • any fresh herbs that fit in with your desired flavor
  • fennel tops (this one is a matter of taste)
  • leek greens and green onion tops
Adding salt is a matter of preference; I generally leave it out and just expect to add a lot more salt to the dish than called for.

Freezer-safe mason jars are great for store whatever you don't use within a day or two. If you don't have enough handy, you can use them to make 1-cup ice cubes, and store those in a gallon ziploc.

Five Favorites: Simple Meals for Ash Wednesday

This Lent is a little different at the Church Ladies'. With three new babies either here or coming soon, we're a little short on cooking time and brain power for the usual new recipe a day. So, while we'll be unveiling some new dishes, we'll also be recalling some old favorites, and sharing some of the knowledge we've gleaned over the years for making tasty, satisfying meatless meals.

While one can certainly make some very gourmet no-meat dishes, Ash Wednesday in particular calls for more austere fare. With that in mind, here are some of our simplest recipes, perfect for an Ash Wednesday fast.

Creamed Mushrooms on Toast
A vegetarian version of the old diner/Army standby, SOS.

Squash Poriyal
A simple Indian stir fry dish with coconut. Try this green bean version if that's more your style.

Creamy Cauliflower Soup
Make this with broccoli, if you prefer.

Fresh herbs make for a dish that is tasty, but simple enough for a fast day. Or try one of these pestos.

Baked Russet or Sweet Potatoes
Serving what's usually a side as the main dish highlights this as a fast day, especially for children. Try them topped with broccoli for a more balanced meal, and make them in the slow cooker if you'd like.

Have a blessed Lent, and don't forget the pretzels!