Hipster Joes

As Meatless March continues I have come to realize that although it’s not particularly difficult for me to go vegetarian (other than when going out to eat…Montana is not full of options, especially if you also don’t feel like eating a pound of cheese), it is incredibly easy for me to end up eating all sweet potato all the time instead. In an effort to fight this predilection and expand my horizons, I did my best to find some vegetarian dishes that didn’t rely on sweet potato.

One that has actually intrigued me for awhile are sloppy joes. I really enjoy sloppy joes although it rarely occurs to me to actually make them, but in addition to being, well, sloppy, they are also not a particularly healthy meal. Several months ago I came across the idea for sloppy joes made with lentils instead of meat which greatly intrigued me. I’d never even bought lentils before but have liked many dishes that contain them, so it seemed the perfect time to try.

I adapted a recipe I found online, mostly changes to suit what was already in my pantry. After adding extra veggies, cutting the sugar, and using apple cider vinegar instead of Worcestershire sauce (which I never have), my concoction turned out delicious; not too saucy and not too sweet, which is just the way I wanted it. Conveniently, not only are these vegetarian but they are also inherently vegan which is nice if you’re cooking for a range of diets. The flavor is excellent, I love having the huge range of veggies, and texturally they are thick and hearty like a proper sloppy joe should be. I’m sure M would frown at the lack of meat, but I genuinely think they are fantastic.

Having recently seen a recipe where a burger was served in a pita rather than on a giant bun, I had the epiphany that this would be superb for sloppy joes since the filling would be so much better contained. It also results in a much more ideal (in my opinion) filling to bread ratio. In all likelihood I’ll use pitas even for regular sloppy joes in the future because it is just so much easier to eat. (I bet it’d be extra great for kids, too.) To retain the vegan-ness you’ll obviously have to find vegan pitas or flatbread or what have you, but I assume such a thing exists somewhere.

With trendy ingredients like lentils and a multitude of veggies and then neatly packaged into a pita, these started to feel less “sloppy” and more “farmers’ market”, so I’ve christened this recipe Hipster Joes in order to credit the proper genre. Feel free to keep ’em sloppy, if you prefer. I try to have something green with at least two meals per day, and these go great with roasted veggies or a salad.

Hipster Joes

Adapted from the Minimalist Baker
Serves 6-8

Ingredients

3 cups vegetable broth or water
1 1/2 cups lentils, rinsed and drained (I used green)

2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
1/2 bell pepper, chopped finely
2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup minced spinach
1 (15oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15oz) can tomato sauce
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp brown sugar (optional)
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
salt, to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste

3-4 pocket pitas, halved and gently split open

Directions

  1. Combine broth (or water) and lentils in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a constant simmer, cover, and cook until tender, about 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Add onion, peppers, and garlic and sauté until onions are tender and golden.
  4. Reduce heat slightly and stir in all remaining ingredients. Continue to heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is hot, adding the lentils once they are cooked through.
  5. If desired, add additional spices, salt, sugar, or vinegar to suit your tastes, allowing to simmer at least 5 minutes after any additions.
  6. Briefly heat pita pockets (I used the microwave) and fill with mixture. Serve hot!

Notes

Leftovers were great for me, just reheat lentil mixture and pitas (or burger buns) separately so the bread doesn’t get soggy.

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Roasted Red Pepper Soup

February is a strange month, equally full of obnoxiously pink items and overpriced flowers as it is dreary days and bluebird skiing. Long-time readers will know I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day but as it is my anniversary with M it becomes more special. Each year I bake a cake to celebrate and this year will be no different – check back in two weeks for this year’s (hopefully successful) endeavor. Valentine’s desserts are typically quite indulgent, which makes today’s recipe a great option if you’re planning to eat in this “holiday”.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

As part of last month’s Mindful Eating challenge I was looking for recipes that were delicious and wholesome and things that I felt good about eating, emotionally and physically. This soup definitely fits the bill. It’s fairly light which makes it pair great with bread or even grilled cheese, and requires simple ingredients and relatively chill preparation.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

I used a whole package of the large bell peppers from Costco, but if yours are smaller you may want closer to 8. Once flattened they should completely fill the cookie sheet to make sure you have plenty of red pepper flavor. The addition of crushed red pepper flakes adds a little kick, and a dollop of sour cream is a great garnish. This recipe is easily made vegetarian or vegan by using vegetable broth (and nixing the sour cream), which makes it versatile for a whole slew of different diets.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

I served mine with some quick drop biscuits, but you could invite added flair with some fancy grilled cheese (think sourdough bread and Gruyère, or focaccia and brie) or a whole grain loaf. Add a side salad or some roasted veggies and you have a complete meal – with plenty of room for dessert and leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Adapted from House of Yumm
Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients

6 large red bell peppers

2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup sour cream (optional)

Directions

  1. Heat your broiler to high and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Cut the bell peppers into flat strips, removing seeds and membranes.
  3. Place the peppers skin side up onto the prepared baking sheet, flattening them as much as possible.
  4. Broil until skins are at least half blackened, about 15 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and place immediately into a sealed container to steam.
  5. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and saute until onion is translucent.
  6. Retrieve the bell peppers, peeling off the charred parts of the skin, and add to the pot. Add broth and spices and bring to a simmer.
  7. Remove from heat and use an immersion blender1 to puree the soup completely. Taste and adjust spices as necessary.
  8. Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream (optional) and some extra crushed red pepper flakes or oregano for garnish. Goes great with a hearty bread.

Notes

If you don’t have an immersion blender, use a regular blender to puree the peppers, onion, and garlic before adding the broth and spices (thinning with some of the unheated broth if necessary to get a fine puree), then return to pot and follow directions as normal.

Banana Cacao Nib Scones

Hello my lovely readers, I hope the beginning of the new year is going smoothly for everyone. (If you want to get straight to the recipe, feel free to skip to the non-italicized text.) With regards to resolutions, this year I’ve decided to do something a little different. Alongside my usual set of running/baking/professional goals, I’ve decided to set a theme: mindfulness. Each month I am going to focus on being more mindful about something in my life. After reading the cookbook Run Fast, Eat Slow I have been inspired to make January’s theme into Mindful Eating.

This doesn’t mean counting calories or following a list of restricted items, but it’s more about improving my relationship with food. It’s easy to feel guilty about eating (or not eating) certain things, to rush through meals in order to move onto something else, to just make things because they’re easy and fast and not because I’m particularly excited to eat them. This month I’m going to focus on food in a way that makes me happy, both mentally and physically: taking the time to make things from scratch as well as actually slowing down and enjoying what I’m eating; having fewer meals in front of a screen; enjoying decadent items as treats not cheats; focusing on what makes me feel happy and energetic and ready for the days to come. 

This is intended to be a long-term change in the way I really think about food. Although I’m not one to be exacting about my diet, I do often feel restricted by what society is touting as healthy these days. Healthy doesn’t necessarily mean low-fat or low-calorie, carbs are not the devil and sugar isn’t the end of the world. Certainly I am going to be mindful of eating unnecessary added sugar, but I already know a low-carb diet doesn’t work that great for me, fats are important for flavor and staying power, and I want every calorie I eat to come from something I enjoy. I will no longer be describing anything as “guilt-free” because food should not be inherently shameful. I would love to hear your thoughts on this endeavor, should you be willing to share them. (Also I highly recommend the book, and you can expect to see some of those recipes on here in the coming months.)

In light of that, today we have another recipe that I made mostly out of curiosity. Consistent readers (and anyone that knows me in real life) will know that I don’t bake anything dairy-free, gluten-free, flourless, or vegan with any amount of regularity because these are not food traits I personally find important. I am, however, often intrigued by such recipes and will make them on occasion just for funsies.

Banana Cacao Nib Scones {{Baking Bytes}}

The original recipe called for things I don’t buy, like self-raising flour, coconut sugar, and almond meal, but I followed her modification suggestions and made a few of my own to tailor the recipe for myself. I replaced some of the flour with ground oatmeal for a heartier flavor, nixed the almond meal in favor of chia seeds, and used regular ole’ brown sugar instead of coconut sugar. I cut the sugar way back since I was figuring the banana adds a fair amount of sweetness (and because I already have my favorite sweeter scones) and added some whole oatmeal for texture.

Banana Cacao Nib Scones {{Baking Bytes}}

A few weeks ago I found some cacao nibs on massive clearance, and bought two of the bags. They were a great addition to these scones, no extra sugar but a little bit of chocolate flavor to enhance the banana. However they are definitely not cheap so feel free to leave them out or use mini chocolate chips as a more decadent replacement.

These scones are fairly dense but soft and moist and delicious. They are also pretty healthy, with low amounts of added sugar and a little bit of protein and good carbs from the oatmeal. Probably you shouldn’t eat three of them, but one is a perfect light-ish breakfast, especially when paired with a cup of coffee.

Banana Cacao Nib Scones {{Baking Bytes}}

I made these a few times and below is my favorite of those iterations. It can be baked into regular size or mini scones, depending on your preferences and whether you plan to serve them solo or as part of a fuller breakfast. They’re also easily portable and a great brunch option, although I think they’re best slightly warmed.

The banana and oatmeal combination is delicious by itself or topped with any number of toppings. Jam or butter and cinnamon sugar were my favorites, but mostly I ate them plain. I especially like the less sweet version if it’s going to be spread with a sweet topping anyway, but you can definitely increase the sugar here if you prefer.

Banana Cacao Nib Scones {{Baking Bytes}}

Give these a try and let me know what you think, and if any of your friends could guess they were vegan.

PS – These can be made gluten-free by using gluten-free flour and uncontaminated oats, and they are vegan/dairy-free unless you use normal chocolate chips, although I’m sure there are vegan/dairy-free versions of those out there you could substitute with.

Banana Scones

Adapted from OmNomAlly
Makes 12-16 mini or 6-8 large scones

Ingredients

2 overripe bananas
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 – 1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar1
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp vanilla

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (use almond flour for gluten-free options)
1 1/2 cups oatmeal, finely ground2
1/2 cup oatmeal, whole
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup cacao nibs, optional3

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mash banana completely. Add coconut oil (microwave briefly if it’s not already mostly liquid), brown sugar, chia, and vanilla. Whisk until well combined, then let rest at least 3 minutes, or until chia seeds have softened.
  3. Add flour, both ground and whole oatmeal, baking powder, salt, and cacao nibs (or chocolate chips), and stir until completely combined. Mixture will be a little loose and quite sticky, but should be solid enough to hold its shape.
  4. Pour onto prepared baking sheet and shape into rounds about 1″ tall. Use two rounds for mini scones, or one for large scones. Use a pizza cutter or a sharp knife to cut rounds into 6 or 8 wedges.
  5. Bake until golden on top and slightly browned on the bottom, about 20 minutes. Be careful not to over bake; they are better slightly too moist than slightly too dry.
  6. Serve warm. Great plain, with butter and cinnamon sugar, or your favorite jam. Store leftovers in an airtight container on the counter up to 3 days, but they are best on day one.

Notes

For sweeter scones, especially if you’re going to enjoy them plain, use the larger amount, or up to 1/2 cup. For less sweet scones, especially if you’re going to doctor them with jam, use the smaller amount. I personally like 1/4 cup best even plain, but the masses may prefer a sweeter option.

Use a blender to grind 1 1/2 cups of the oatmeal into a powder. Leave 1/2 cup as normal for texture. =)

Cacao nibs are a great way to add a little chocolate flavor without the sugar and calories of chocolate chips. They are quite mild but delicious in baked goods. However for a more decadent treat, or if you don’t have cacao nibs on hand, you can substitute mini chocolate chips for delicious results, or leave them out entirely.

Sweet Potato Soup

As you may have noticed, I love me some sweet potatoes. Served with eggs for breakfast, in a salad for lunch, or as a side of fries for dinner, they are fantastic for any and every meal of the day. Even better, they are a pretty healthy option and low on the glycemic index, which is great for those of you that care about things like that.

Sweet Potato Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

A few months ago I started meal prepping for my work lunches. Each weekend I make a meal and portion into lunch-sized servings to eat throughout the week. I try to change it up each week with salads, quinoa bowls, spaghetti squash, etc, so I don’t get bored. It has helped a lot to have healthy meals ready to go and in correct portions for each day of the week, as well as given me the opportunity to try lots of new recipes that wouldn’t be particularly appealing to M.

Sweet Potato Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

One of the new recipes I’ve tried is this sweet potato soup. I made a few changes to the original, by substituting zucchini for celery and nixing the nutmeg in favor of chipotle. It’s light but filling, vegetarian (vegan if you want), and makes a great lunch for chilly days, especially when served with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts. This soup reheats perfectly and is nice and thick, which I personally think makes it feel more filling. I like mine extra thick but you can use 1 less potato or add a little extra stock/water to thin yours down if you prefer.

Sweet Potato Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

Smooth and creamy and with great sweet potato flavor, this soup has a slight kick from the cinnamon and chipotle that tones down its inherent sweetness. I have a pretty low spice tolerance, so feel free to up the spices if you want a more kapow flavor, but I recommend waiting till after it’s puréed to do so.

This soup is pretty simple and relatively quick, which makes it a pretty good weeknight dinner even without leftovers. Alternatively, it also works great in the slow cooker, so I have instructions for both methods below. Serve with a side of roasted broccoli or Brussels sprouts and a savory whole-grain bread to hit all the food groups and most of the rainbow.

Sweet Potato Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

PS – Isn’t this bowl so great? It has a handle and a water-tight vented lid which makes it a great to-go option and perfect for heating in the microwave. I got it in 6 different colors and I’m very excited to use them both for work lunches and for showcasing new recipes on here!

Sweet Potato Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

Sweet Potato Soup

Adapted from I Heart Naptime
Makes about 3 quarts (8-12 servings)

Ingredients

2 Tbsp unsalted butter or olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup diced zucchini (or celery)
3 cloves garlic, minced

3-4 medium-large sweet potatoes, washed and cubed  (about 10 cups)
4 cups vegetable stock

1 tsp ground cinnamon, to taste
1/2 tsp ground chipotle, to taste
pinch of salt

1/3 cup whipping cream, optional

Stove Top Directions

  1. In a large pot over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add onions, zucchini (or celery), and garlic, and sauté about 5 minutes, or until onion is softened and translucent.
  2. Increase heat to high and add sweet potatoes, vegetable stock, and spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered 20-30 minutes, or until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.
  3. Remove from heat and use an immersion blender (or any blender) to purée the soup completely.
  4. Stir in the cream and have a quick taste. If desired, add extra spices now.
  5. Either serve immediately or return to the stove to simmer until ready to eat. (If you added more spice, I recommend simmering for at least 10 minutes afterwards.)
  6. Serve topped with a sprinkle of extra cinnamon or chipotle if desired.

Slow Cooker Directions

  1. Add all ingredients except cream to a slow cooker (you can nix the butter/oil if you want.)
  2. Cook on high 3-4 hours, or on low 6-8 hours, or until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.
  3. Use an immersion blender (or any blender) to purée the soup completely.
  4. Stir in the cream and have a quick taste. If desired, add extra spices now.
  5. Either serve immediately or return to slow cooker on “warm” until ready to eat. (If you added more spice, I recommend cooking for at least 10 minutes afterwards.)
  6. Served topped with a sprinkle of extra cinnamon or chipotle if desired.

Notes

Vegans can either leave this out, or substitute coconut cream (or milk), although it may give the soup a slight coconut flavor if you do so.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad with Cinnamon Balsamic Vinaigrette

Lately I’ve been all aboard the sweet potato train, and today’s post will hopefully get you on the bandwagon as well. I love sweet potatoes in pretty much any form, and could happily eat them for several meals a day. Luckily they are great all year round as French fries or a delicious breakfast, and work just as well in salads as they do in soups and chilis.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Several months ago my office had a catered lunch that was a bit higher class than our norm. Although all the food was delicious, the one that made the most impact on me was an arugula and spiced sweet potato quinoa salad. Their version was sweet, with heavily candied nuts, sugary dried cranberries, and a sweetened balsamic vinaigrette amongst the quinoa, arugula, and goat cheese. Although I loved this combination, it really was like eating dessert with arugula in it which isn’t necessarily something I want to do very often.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Inspired by their concoction, I opted to test out a more savory version for myself. I kept the cinnamon roasted sweet potatoes but only lightly honeyed my walnuts. I also nixed the cranberries and used bacon instead, and adjusted the arugula:quinoa ratio to be more in favor of the former. Originally I was going to use brie as chèvre (goat cheese) can be exorbitantly expensive, but I discovered Costco carries goat cheese at an incredibly reasonable price and so I kept that flavor as well. Feel free to substitute brie or another neutral soft cheese if you prefer.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

The spiced sweet potatoes, salty bacon, creamy chèvre and lightly sweetened and toasted walnuts come together in that fantastic sweet-and-salty juxtaposition that is so popular these days. Arugula and quinoa make a great base and let salad act either as a light lunch or a great side dish.

To round out the experience, I made a cinnamon balsamic vinaigrette only slightly sweetened with honey to mellow the flavor. The dressing gives the salad more of a punch of flavor, and I highly recommend you make it too. In fact, maybe make extra and use it on your other salads too since it’s just that delicious.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Although my original recipe is clearly neither vegetarian nor vegan, it could easily be altered for those diet preferences. Vegetarians can simply ditch the bacon, and a pinch of salt to the dressing, and carry on as normal. Vegans will want to substitute maple syrup in lieu of the honey as well as nix the cheese. You may want to add another ingredient to round it out, dried cranberries or salted almonds would both be great options, depending on which flavor route you want to go.

Full of cinnamon flavor, tasty sweet potatoes and a tinge of sweetness, this would be a superb side dish to grace your Thanksgiving table. Instead of those overly sugary sweet potato and marshmallow concoctions normally served this time of year, this salad would be a healthier and more sophisticated twist for this year. Even better, you can absolutely make it ahead (even a few days!) and store it in the fridge until ready to use. It’s delicious cold, at room temperature, or warmed, so pick your favorite or the most convenient and serve it as such.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

The dressing makes a fair amount, so start with half of the recipe and stir in more to taste or serve on the side for guests to add as they like. I am personally a light dressing kind of person but many people prefer a stronger flavor, and it’s good to have options.

If you’re not doing the Thanksgiving thing, or don’t want to wait that long, this also make a great lunch. I made a batch on Sunday and got about 4-5 lunches out of it. Stored in the fridge, it reheated beautifully at work for the rest of the week. Additionally, if you’re not a fan of arugula, some kind of baby spring mix would be a great substitution.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad & Cinnamon Balsamic Vinaigrette

Inspired by Food for Thought and Just a Pinch
Serves 6-8 (side dish) or about 4 (lunch)

Ingredients

Salad
4 cups cubed sweet potatoes
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon

3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1 Tbsp honey or maple syrup

6 slices bacon (optional)1

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water

5 oz arugula (or leafy veggie/mix of choice)
~4oz goat cheese (or brie, optional)1

Dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp honey or maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two cookie sheets with foil or parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine sweet potatoes, olive oil, and cinnamon. Stir with a rubber scraper until potatoes are well coated. Arrange in one layer on half of a cookie sheet.
  3. In the same bowl, combine walnuts and honey and stir until completely coated. (Heat the honey sightly to liquify for easier stirring.) Arrange in one layer on the other half of the cookie sheet.
  4. Arrange bacon in one layer on the other cookie sheet.
  5. Place cookie sheets in oven (I put the potatoes on the middle rung, and the bacon one rung below it) and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until walnuts are lightly toasted.
  6. Remove the walnuts to a plate to cool. Continue baking potatoes and bacon for 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, and bacon is cooked to desired doneness.
  7. Remove bacon to paper towels to cool, pressing to remove excess grease. Dice bacon and set aside.
  8. Meanwhile, in a medium pot bring quinoa and water to a boil, then cover and simmer until all liquid is soaked up, about 15 minutes. Uncover and set aside.
  9. In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients until completely combined.
  10. In a large bowl, combine arugula and half the dressing, tossing to coat. Add quinoa and sweet potatoes, and stir gently until well combined.
  11. Add walnuts (breaking apart if necessary), diced bacon, and goat cheese, stirring gently to combine.
  12. Serve immediately, later today, or tomorrow since it’s good at pretty much any temperature. Store leftovers in the fridge, or make it ahead the night before. Reheats well with a brief stint in the microwave and is also excellent right out of the fridge.
  13. Add additional dressing just before serving if necessary, or serve it on the side.
  14. Delicious as a side dish (6-8 servings) or for a lighter lunch (4 servings).

Notes

For a vegetarian option, just leave out the bacon, it’s great without it too! To get that added salty flavor, add a pinch to the dressing or include a few chopped salted almonds in its place. Vegans could also use maple syrup and ditch the cheese, although you may want to add another ingredient (maybe dried cranberries?), and follow the same salty suggestion.