One Bowl of Veggies, a Week of Meals

Making a giant bowl of veggies has become a nearly weekly ritual. I’ve nearly perfected the art – it takes just the right vegetable combo, proper blanching, and a bit of creativity – but lately I’ve managed to turn my big bowl of vegetables into several different meals, and I thought it was time to finally share. Here we go.

Day 1: Make the veg and eat a simple bowl mixed veg with harissa and yogurt.

Day 2: Creamy coconut soup and top with mixed veg.

Day 3: Miso soba noodles with mixed veggies.

Day 4: Cold kale-veggie salad with coconut-lime dressing.

Day 5: Tacos topped with mixed veggie slaw.

Veg-Lentil Bowls Day1 2

On day 1, I like to keep it simple. After all, I just went through all the work of chopping and blanching and roasting, so I generally throw the veggies in a big bowl with some harissa, yogurt, and a soft-boiled egg. If I have a decent avocado, that will go in the mix as well. The harissa here is homemade, and I’ll include a recipe below, but you can also buy jars of harissa at the store.

Veg-Lentil Bowls Day1 4

Making the harissa was a process as well, since I bought seven different peppers, prepped and processed them each separately, and then mixed then in small quantities until I found the perfect recipe. I actually recommend you do the same because a) it was a fun experiment and b) your palate is likely different than mine. Eric ended up preferring a different recipe than I did, but they both had one thing in common: fresh roasted red pepper. Most recipes for harissa only call for dried red chiles, but the fresh red peppers add a sweetness that works well to counter the bitterness of the dried chiles.

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As for the veggies, you can get creative with it, but the broccoli in my opinion is not optional. Quickly blanched, it just works. The asparagus in this bowl was on sale, which is why it is here, but I would say a good base is always squash, broccoli, and red cabbage. This trio has the perfect texture and color to make it all look so entirely appetizing. Add to that lentils and any other veg that looks good/is on sale.

Big Veggie Bowl 

1/2 head red cabbage, cored and finely shredded
1 medium-sized head broccoli, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 small butternut, buttercup, or other squash of your choice, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup black lentils, uncooked
1/2 cup green lentils, uncooked

To save on dishes, I usually use two pots and cook everything in series. But, by all means, if you have 4 pots and you want to wash them all when you’re done, do it all at once! Otherwise, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, put the broccoli in for 30 seconds to 1 minute, MAX. Immediately drain the broccoli (you can reserve the liquid to blanch the cabbage if you want) and place it in an ice bath. Follow the same procedure to blanch the cabbage, though the cabbage can cook in the water for 1-2 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour the black lentils in a pot with 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a low simmer until all the water is gone. Put the lentils in a big bowl and reuse the pot to cook the green lentils.

While all the above is happening, roast the squash. For butternut squash, peel the skin off, but for many other types you can and should leave the skin on. Toss the cubes in olive oil and salt and pepper. For butternut or buttercup squash cut into 1-inch cubes, I usually roast them for 25 minutes at 400 degrees. Other squash might take more or less time. Just check them and pull them out when tender.

When everything is finished cooking, mix it all together in a big bowl. Taste it and season as necessary. This big bowl is now the vegetable base for your week’s worth of meals.

Day 1: Mixed Veg with Harissa, Yogurt, and a Soft-Boiled Egg

1 egg
1 heaping teaspoon harissa (see recipes below)
1 heaping teaspoon greek yogurt
1/2 avocado, finely sliced
few big scoops from the big veg bowl

To make a soft-boiled egg, I place a raw egg in room-temperate water (from the tap) and turn on the burner. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, I set a timer for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, I pull the egg out and run it under cold water until it is cool enough to peel. This timing makes the whites nice and solid and the yolk still runny, but this could vary a lot based on altitude, so play around with it. For example, in Nairobi, I boil my eggs for 5 minutes instead of 2.

Layer everything in a bowl, take a picture because it’s pretty, and then mix it all around. Eat.

Homemade Harissa

To test out the recipes, I bought fresh red pepper, fresh red jalapeño, and five varieties of dried chiles: ancho, morita, mulato, guajillo, and pulla. If you want to do your own chile test, you can follow this method:

1) In a dry skillet, toast the dried chiles one batch at a time. Toast them over medium heat until fragrant but be careful not to burn them. Remove the stems and deseed the chiles as best you can. Keep the different varieties in separate bowls and label them if you need to.

2) Roast the fresh red pepper and red jalapeño. Place the red peppers under a broiler until the skin turns black. Remove them and allow to cool until you can peel the charred skin off. Roast the red jalapeños under a broiler, but not charred. Pull out and remove the stems. I kept the seeds for spice, but you can also remove them.

3) In a food processor, process the chiles. For the dried, toasted chiles, pour some water in until the peppers become a paste. Pour each paste into a jar, label it, and set aside. The roasted red peppers should process easily without water, but the red jalapeños will also need a bit of water and/or oil to form a paste.

4)  Make garlic oil. In the food processer, add 5-6 cloves of garlic and process with 3/4 cups olive oil. Pour the mixture into a pan and heat until fragrant over medium heat.

5) Taste all the chile pastes separately to get a feel for the flavor of each one. Morita chiles, for example, have a very smoky flavor, while ancho chiles are a bit sweet.

6) Start mixing and matching. Each batch should have a mix of pepper pastes in addition to salt, garlic oil, and cumin. In general, per 5 teaspoons of pepper paste, I used 1/4 teaspoon of cumin and 1 tablespoon of garlic oil. Play around with it until you find a combo you like.

Harissa 1

Harissa 3

April’s Harissa Recipe

If you already have the pepper pastes made, here are the ratios I preferred:

2 parts roasted red pepper paste
1 part roasted red jalapeño paste
2 parts guajillo paste
1/4 part cumin
3 parts garlic oil
salt to taste

If you don’t have pepper pastes, here are better measurements:

5-6 dried guajillo chiles
1 roasted red pepper
2 red jalapeño peppers
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon garlic oil
salt to taste

Eric’s Harissa Recipe

1 part roasted red pepper paste
1 part ancho chile paste
1 part morita chile paste
1 part mulato chile paste
1 part red jalapeño paste
1 part guajillo chile paste
1 part pulla chile paste
1/4 part cumin
3 parts garlic oil
salt to taste

Eric’s is kind of a mish mash of everything. Rather than providing better measurements, I would simply buy a bunch of different peppers, process them according to the directions above, and mix them all together. The exact quantity is probably not as important as imparting a bit of each chile into the final harissa.

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Udon Noodle Salad

I’m heading to New York next week for three days of eating before we fly to Southeast Asia. When soliciting suggestions on where to eat, my friend Caroline recommended Budakkan and said she loved the chilled udon noodles with peanut sauce. Then she forwarded me the recipe. Then I made it. It was good.

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But seriously, it was really good. I have no idea if this recipe comes close to the dish served at Budakkan – having never been there – but it doesn’t really matter when it’s this good. I’ll be making this again soon since Eric and I ate it like we’d never see food again.

As for New York, I have a short (ok, long) list of restaurants in mind. I want to eat at some classics – a Jewish deli, maybe Shake Shack – and some not-so-classic restaurants – Budakkan, perhaps? If you know of a must-try, leave it in the comments.

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Udon Noodle Salad

Adapted from Caroline’s recipe, which came from her sister, which came from who-knows where. I made a couple modifications – a bit more vinegar and Sriacha – so I wrote the recipe as I made it.

For Peanut Sauce:
2 teaspoons peanut oil
5 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 cup water
2 tablespoons light soy sauce (I used Bragg Liquid Aminos)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2/3 cup chunky peanut butter (preferably a nice, natural peanut butter that is not loaded with sugar)
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (not the fake stuff made with corn syrup)
6 tablespoons rice vinegar
4 teaspoons Sriacha

to Serve:
10 oz udon noodles
1 cucumber, halved across, sliced into matchsticks
2 cups bean sprouts
1 orange  or red pepper sliced into matchsticks
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
several lime wedges

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In small saucepan, saute garlic and ginger in peanut oil over medium-low heat. Add the water, soy sauce, and coriander, and bring to a boil. Add peanut butter and turn heat to low. Whisk together until combined, then mix in the maple syrup, vinegar, and chile sauce. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

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Meanwhile, prepare Udon noodles according to package instructions and then set aside. Combine noodles, sliced vegetables and sauce, with fresh squeezed fresh lime juice and chopped cilantro.

Rosemary White Bean Dip

Oh, the holidays. Just yesterday, a messenger delivered two cheesecakes to our office. Tomorrow, I’m expecting our first fruit cake. This is always a tough time of year for healthy eating.

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Fortunately for me, I hate fruit cake – no temptation there. Pumpkin mousse cheesecake? Yeah, that’s a different story. Two things have kept me from digging in so far this week:

1) I checked the nutrition label immediately – at 420 calories for one tiny slice, that cheesecake doesn’t look so enticing anymore, and

2) I stocked up on veggies at work. Lots of veggies. And to keep them enticing, I have been bringing in this bean dip.

I’m pretty much obsessed with this bean dip right now. It’s so good, so easy, and unlike other bean dips (ahem, hummus), it tastes better with veggies than it does with, say, pita, so it’s healthy to boot. Yeeeah.

Rosemary White Bean Dip

2 cans Great Northern or white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 stalks of rosemary, stripped from the stalk
juice and zest of one lemon
3 cloves garlic
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

In a food processor, combine the beans, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper, and lemon juice and zest. As it is processing, pour in the olive oil. Serve with red peppers, cucumbers, and mushrooms.

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Asian Wonton Soup

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Yes, another soup. I can’t get soup recipes out of my head right now. I do have some other good stuff to post, so I will promise you this: no more soup recipes! At least for a little while.

I think my obsession with soup right now  goes right along with my inability to get out of bed in the morning. All summer, I was getting up at 5 or 6 in the morning to go to spin class or go for a run, but ever since the mornings have gotten darker and the weather colder, I am hoarding every minute of sleep. I make excuses to push snooze one more time; it’s very easy to rationalize sleeping just a little bit longer when your eyes are closed and your brain is only half functioning. Even as I’m walking out the door to go to work, I’m still thinking about my warm, comfy bed. My down comforter. My cozy, cuddly kitties. This cold weather is messing with me – my sleep habits and my appetite – and yet again I’m asking myself why I still live in the Midwest.

Anyway, I recently bought wonton wrappers at the store to try out one of those ravioli recipes I see everywhere; they were so easy to use and I had leftovers, so I thought an Asian dumpling soup would be great. If I had any, I would’ve thrown some greens in the pot – spinach or Chinese broccoli – but sometimes you just have to make do with what is in the fridge.

This soup was really fantastic. Eric really liked it too, and this time he didn’t add the “then again, I’m starving” afterthought to the sentence. It was perfect after an extra hard spin class last night – after who-knows-how-many squats, I walked in to spin looking for a low-resistance cardio workout. Instead, our instructor informed us we were going to max out Watts – in spin speak, this means high resistance, fast legs, trying to push your power output (measured in Watts on the spin computer) as high as humanly possible. It’s a tough, tough workout, and my legs were not willing to push my Watts much higher than 300 at first (as a point of reference, my usual spin class average is 160-170, pushing 250 in the intense parts and coming down lower during recovery). This is not much higher than normal for me, and since the intensity bursts are so short, I should have been killing this workout. After a while, though, my legs got used to the spinning motion and I managed to push up to 525 Watts at one point, even if it only was for 5 to 10 seconds. Whew. You really feel whipped and accomplished at the end of those workouts.

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Asian Dumpling Soup

an original recipe – this makes a pretty large pot of soup; halve it if you prefer

12 cups beef stock
10 – 15 wonton wrappers
1 red pepper, sliced or chopped however you prefer
½ package baby bella or white button mushrooms, sliced
2.5 ounces soba noodles (in the package I bought, the noodles are separated into 3 bundles – I used one bundle)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon granulated onion
2 tablespoons soy sauce (I used Bragg’s Liquid Aminos)
½ teaspoon fish sauce
½ pound ground pork
slivers of sliced green onion
salt and pepper to taste

First, get all your veggies chopped and ready. Sauté the ginger and garlic in some neutral tasting vegetable oil for a couple minutes, then add the mushrooms and red pepper. Sauté a couple minutes longer, then pour in the stock and let it warm up – almost to a boil.

Meanwhile, make the wontons. Combine the pork, granulated garlic, granulated onion, soy sauce, and fish sauce. Spoon a small dollop in the center of the wonton wrapper. You don’t want to add too much – otherwise they won’t cook through or the wonton won’t close. Wet the edges and form a little pocket – the corn starch that coats the wrapper will make it stick together.

When the soup is almost to a boil, add the black beans and wontons. Cook for just a couple minutes, then add the soba noodles. When the soba noodles are soft – about a minute – take off the heat and serve garnished with green onions. If it needs salt, add at this point.

You might be left with some pork – we just formed them into balls and baked them like meatballs!

The dumplings are really versatile. I think in the future, I’d mix it up a bit by adding green onion or maybe shaved carrots and ginger to the pork filling. Even some shrimp would be really good in there. A dash of fish sauce in the body of the soup might be nice, also. Play around with the veggie combinations and try not adding the soba noodles.