Better-Than-Your-Average Potato Salad

I live for summer. For a few blissful months, I’m enveloped in the warmth of our personal star, tilting my head to the sky every time I’m outside. It’s the one time of year I don’t have to deal with my perpetual coldness. (Don’t even talk to me about air conditioned buildings!) I love the heat!

I also love typical summer foods: corn on the cob, salads with garden-fresh veggies, grilled everything. And, now that I’m vegan, potato salad. I stand firmly by the belief that vegan potato salads are orders of magnitude better than those gloppy, mayonnaise-y, sad non-vegan versions that are ubiquitous at summer barbecues. This version is an update on the potato salad I made five (!) years ago, and it’s full of crunchy veggies to counter the fork-tender potatoes. Dijon mustard gives this salad a kick, and a touch of vegan mayo adds just enough creaminess to keep everything together. I love this potato salad, and I hope you will, too!

Better-Than-Your-Average Potato Salad

Better-Than-Your-Average Potato Salad
Serves 3-4 as a side dish

1 1/2 lbs red potatoes, skin still on, chopped into bite-size pieces (about 3/4″)
1/2 small red onion, diced finely
3 stalks celery, diced finely
A handful green beans, chopped into 1″ pieces
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, separated
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 tablespoon vegan mayo
1/2 tablespoon agave nectar
1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon salt
A few dashes freshly ground black pepper

Put a medium-sized pot of water on high heat while you prepare the potatoes and other veggies. Just before the water boils, add the potatoes to the pot and boil for 7-10 minutes or until the potatoes are just fork-tender. Remove from heat and strain in a colander. Rinse briefly with cold water and let sit while you finish chopping the veggies.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar and one tablespoon of the Dijon mustard. Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl and slowly pour the vinegar-Dijon mixture over the potatoes, stirring to distribute it evenly. Let the potatoes sit while you mix the mayo, agave nectar, salt, black pepper, and remaining tablespoon of mustard in the small bowl. Add the chopped onion, celery, and green beans to the potatoes, and then pour the mayo mixture over everything. Stir to coat evenly.

Refrigerate the potato salad until cold. If you’re serving it the next day, you might want to add an additional tablespoon of Dijon — the flavors lose intensity over time.

Better-Than-Your-Average Potato Salad

Enjoy outdoors on a sunny day! Be sure to double (or even triple) the recipe if you’re serving to a large crowd.

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Kale, Sweet Potato, & Quinoa Bowl with Ginger-Peanut Sauce (and, I’m going to New Zealand!)

If it’s not clear yet, I’m all about bowls. Gimme a grain + a green + a delicious sauce and I’m a happy camper. One of my favorite veggie combos is kale and sweet potatoes — they make such a great pair, both flavor-wise and texture-wise. Today’s bowl gives kale + sweet potatoes the chance to team up with quinoa and a gingery peanut sauce for a nutritious, flavorful meal. A drizzle of fresh lime juice is the perfect finishing touch!

Kale, Sweet Potato, & Quinoa Bowl

Sorry for the subpar photo!

Kale, Sweet Potato, & Quinoa Bowl with Ginger-Peanut Sauce
Serves 3-4

For the Bowl

  • 3 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1.5 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 large bunch kale, roughly chopped (I used lacinato kale, but curly kale would be great too)
  • 1/2 lime for serving
  • Chopped peanuts or hemp seeds for serving (optional)

For the Sauce

  • 1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • Scant 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon sambal oelek
  • Water to thin the sauce

Using your favorite steaming method, steam the sweet potatoes for about 10 minutes or until they’re fork-tender. While they’re steaming, you can chop the kale or prepare the sauce. To make the sauce, whisk together all the ingredients and add enough water to emulsify the mixture. You can add more or less water depending on how thin or thick you like your sauce. Set the prepared sauce aside.

When the sweet potatoes are fork-tender, remove them from the steamer and set them aside. Add the chopped kale and steam it for about 5 minutes or until it’s tender enough for your tastes. (I leave the stems on, so I like to make sure they’re tender too.)

To assemble the bowls, add the quinoa, top with kale, and then top with sweet potatoes. Add the sauce and a squeeze of fresh lime juice and toppings, if using. Enjoy!

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In news that’s tangentially related to food, I’m going to New Zealand! I’m leaving this Thursday and staying with a friend who’s working there currently. She’s based in Auckland, but we have lots of adventures planned on both islands. I’ve been researching lots of tasty Auckland dining options, but let me know if you have recommendations! I’ll also be in the Bay of Islands, Rotorua, Christchurch, and somewhere else on the South Island yet to be determined (probably near Arthur’s Pass).

Finally, as promised… I shaved my head! I raised nearly $700 for childhood cancer research thanks to the generosity of my friends, family, and coworkers. And you know what? Having a shaved head is awesome. I feel so bad-ass! (Not to mention that my showers are now so, so quick!) I’m excited to explore New Zealand with my new look. :)

Kelly After

Warm Lentil & Brussels Sprout Salad with Roasted Radicchio Wedges

With its slightly astringent bite, radicchio isn’t a vegetable I cook with frequently—truth be told, I’ve used it only a handful of times. Recently, though, I stumbled across a method for cooking it that promised to transform it into something much more palatable: roasting! I’m surprised I didn’t think of it myself. What vegetable doesn’t benefit from a little olive oil and some time in the oven at high heat? Roasting radicchio brings out its sweetness, especially in the tender inner leaves. The outer leaves retain some of their bite, but those inner leaves practically melt in your mouth.

I served my roasted radicchio alongside a warm lentil dish that features one of my absolute favorite veggies: Brussels sprouts. I also added pomegranates for a textural contrast and a bite of sweet juiciness that plays well with the strongly flavored sprouts, and a sprinkle of pine nuts adds the finishing touch! I flavored my lentil dish with Trader Joe’s orange muscat champagne vinegar, a lovely mild vinegar that even I—a noted vinegar-hater—can’t totally dislike. If you don’t have it, though, feel free to use another light vinegar and a bit of freshly squeezed orange juice.

Warm Lentil & Brussels Sprout Salad with Roasted Radicchio Wedges

Warm Lentil & Brussels Sprout Salad with Roasted Radicchio Wedges
Serves two

For the radicchio:

  • One head radicchio
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 clove garlic, minced as finely as you can get it (or pressed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash freshly ground black pepper

For the Brussels sprouts:

  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

For the lentils:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup brown lentils

For the dressing/salad:

  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon orange muscat champagne vinegar (or 1/2 tablespoon your favorite vinegar + 1/2 tablespoon orange juice)
  • 1/2 tablespoon pure maple syrup or agave nectar
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Pine nuts for topping (optional but highly recommended)

Add the water to a medium sauce pot and heat on high. Preheat oven to 425˚. Prepare a short-rimmed baking pan by spraying it with oil or lining it with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk together the radicchio marinade: olive oil, maple syrup, garlic, and salt. Set aside.

Quarter the radicchio by trimming the woody bottom off and cutting the radicchio into four wedges. Using a pastry brush, coat all of the exposed surfaces of each wedge with the olive oil marinade. Place cut-side down on the baking pan and place in the oven while you prep the Brussels sprouts.

If the water’s boiling at this point, add the lentils, cover the pot, and turn the heat down to a simmer.

Roughly quarter each Brussels sprout (or halve them if they’re particularly small). You don’t have to use uniform precision; just make sure each piece is roughly the same size. Add to a bowl and toss with the olive oil, garlic, salt, and paprika until well coated. Remove the baking pan with the radicchio from the oven and add the Brussels sprouts to the pan. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, then flip the radicchio quarters so the other cut side is down and give the Brussels sprouts a good stir. Bake for another 15 minutes or until the Brussels sprouts start to crisp up.

While the veggies are roasting, keep an eye on the lentils. When all the water is absorbed, turn off the stove and remove the pot from the heat. Uncover it and let it sit, stirring the lentils frequently to cool them a bit.

After the lentils have cooled for about five minutes, drizzle in the dressing ingredients and stir until the lentils are well coated. Allow the mixture to sit while the veggies finish roasting.

Once the Brussels sprouts are crispy and the radicchio has wilted and darkened, remove them from the oven. Toss the Brussels sprouts with the lentils, top with pine nuts, and serve immediately with the radicchio wedges on the side.

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What’s your favorite way to serve radicchio? Brussels sprouts? 

Nutty Quinoa-Stuffed Delicata Squash

LVV MoFo 2014 main

On the drive home from work this evening, S asked me what I was planning to make for the last day of Vegan MoFo.

“Something with that Delicata squash that’s been sitting around for a week,” I said. “Maybe stuffed squash. Any ideas?”

He barely had to think about the question before answering.

“Nuts! And dried cranberries!”

Nuts and dried cranberries it is. For the last day of September, I put together a dinner that’s pretty to look at and fun to eat. Quinoa gets an autumnal makeover as the filling for the melt-in-your-mouth Delicata squash, and the spice combo evokes all the best fall flavors. A hint of cinnamon and maple syrup adds a touch of sweetness, and the toasted nuts provide a little crunch. The filling would make an excellent gluten-free Thanksgiving stuffing alternative on its own! As written, though, this recipe is a surprisingly satisfying and filling dinner.

Nutty Quinoa-Stuffed Delicata Squash

Nutty Quinoa-Stuffed Delicata Squash
Serves two

  • 1/2-1 tablespoon Earth Balance
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup celery, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • A couple grinds of fresh pepper
  • Dash cinnamon
  • 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted nuts (I used a mix of hazelnuts and walnuts)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 Delicata squash, split lengthwise, with the seeds and stringy bits scooped out
  • A little extra Earth Balance or coconut oil

Preheat the oven to 425˚ and fill an 8″ x 8″ (or 9″ x 9″, depending on the size of your squash) baking pan with a thin layer of water.

Melt the Earth Balance in a small pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and celery and cook for about 5 minutes until they start to soften. Add the spices and maple syrup and stir so that the onion and celery are coated. Cook for another 3 minutes or so, then remove from heat.

In a large bowl, mix together the quinoa, toasted nuts, dried cranberries, and the onion and celery mixture. Scoop into the cored Delicata squash and pack tightly. The filling can come up over the edge a little bit, but not too far. You’ll have extra, but that’s okay. Dot the filling with a little coconut oil or Earth Balance. Place the squash halves in the prepared pan, add the remaining filling to a small baking dish, and place on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until the Delicata squash is browned on top and is pierced easily with a fork. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before eating. Drizzle with a little extra maple syrup if you’re feeling indulgent!

Nutty Quinoa-Stuffed Delicata Squash

Besides being my favorite squash for its ease of preparation (you can eat the skin, so no need to remove it!) and its creamy texture, Delicata is rich in vitamin A and vitamin C. Quinoa, of course, is a phenomenally healthy little seed, and it’s really what gives this dish its nutritional punch. One serving (one filled half squash) provides 24 grams of protein, 41% of your RDV of iron, and 11% of your RDV of calcium. That’s a pretty darn strong finish to my “Where do you get your protein?!” month, wouldn’t you say?

And what a month it’s been! I’ve really enjoyed myself. Sure, I had a few lazy days, but overall I’m proud of the recipes I created and the consistency with which I was able to put them together. And, for the first time in a while, I’m feeling inspired to keep creating recipes and to continue blogging. Hold me to it if I don’t!

And with that, I bid this year’s Vegan Month of Food a truly fond farewell.

What’s your favorite squash? If you participated in Vegan MoFo, how did it go?