Polenta soup with potatoes, greens + herbs (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

The packaged precooked polenta that comes in a log thickens this healthy, quick, and comforting soup. If you add red beets as part of the chopped seasonal vegetables, the soup will turn pink, unless you use varieties that don’t bleed, like golden or Chioggia beets.

  • avocado oil, coconut oil, or extra-virgin olive oil
  • mushrooms, sliced
  • onion, chopped
  • potatoes, sliced
  • jalapeño or serrano chile, sliced (optional)
  • chopped seasonal vegetables (such as carrots, celery, fennel bulb, cauliflower, and beets)
  • kosher salt
  • chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
  • packaged precooked polenta, sliced and cubed
  • greens (such as chard, kale, collards, or beet greens), stems removed and leaves finely sliced
  • herbes de Provence or fresh or dried rosemary and thyme
  • chopped fresh parsley
  • freshly ground pepper
  1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the mushrooms in one layer and cook, undisturbed, until sizzling and browned. Move the mushrooms to the side of the pot, add the onion and potatoes, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened. Stir in the chile and chopped vegetables, season with salt, cover, and cook until the vegetables are softened. Add the tomatoes, cover, and simmer until the tomatoes become saucy.
  2. Add the polenta and water just to cover the contents of the pot. Cover and bring the soup to a simmer. Let the polenta cook for a few minutes so that it softens, then mash the polenta against the side of the pot. Cook until the polenta is well integrated into the soup and the vegetables are cooked through.
  3. Stir in the greens until wilted. Then add the herbs, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.

Spinach salad with white beans, hard-cooked eggs + spicy dressing (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

Any fresh vegetables work in this main-course spinach salad. In winter, that could be raw carrots, fennel bulb, salad turnips (aka white or pink Tokyo turnips), or kohlrabi. Steamed or roasted cauliflower, broccoli, or beets are a nice addition. For a vegan salad, substitute homemade seasoned tofu or tempeh for the eggs.

  • spinach
  • fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped
  • salad turnips, trimmed and chopped
  • cooked white beans, such as cannellini beans
  • pitted green olives or olives of choice
  • hard-cooked eggs, peeled and chopped
  • fruit vinegar, balsamic vinegar, or any tangy-sweet vinegar
  • vegan or regular mayonnaise or garlic aioli
  • Sriracha chili sauce
  • mustard of choice
  • fresh cilantro or fresh parsley, chopped
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. In a salad spinner, wash and dry the spinach. Tear larger leaves into bite-size pieces and transfer to a large bowl. Add the fennel, turnips, beans, olives, and eggs and toss to combine.
  2. In a small bowl or directly in the salad, mix the vinegar, mayonnaise, Sriracha, and mustard. Toss the salad with the dressing. Sprinkle with the fresh herbs, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Creamy avocado-hummus dip or sandwich spread (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

Just in time for Super Bowl 50, here’s an easy dip that uses avocados in a different way from your standard guacamole. Any extra is great stuffed in tacos, spread on sandwiches, or stirred into a bowl of soup or stew.

  • ripe avocados
  • store-bought or homemade plain or flavored hummus
  • one or more seasonings (optional)
    • thinly sliced green onion
    • dried or fresh chopped oregano
    • freshly ground black pepper
  • tortilla chips, crackers, or rice cakes
  • crudités (such as carrots, celery, sweet peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, and sugar snap peas)
  • salsa (optional)
  1. Scoop out the flesh of the avocados and put in a bowl. Mash with a fork. Stir in the hummus and any optional seasonings.
  2. Serve with chips and crudités with a bowl of salsa alongside.

Cauliflower “steaks” with tomatoes, leeks + olives (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

This Mediterranean-inspired dish begs to be served alongside white beans seasoned with herbes de Provence (or rosemary, thyme, and fennel) or served on top of hummus mixed with fresh-cooked brown rice. Yum.

  • leeks, white and light green parts only
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • chopped fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes with juice
  • cauliflower
  • minced garlic or garlic powder
  • pitted green olives
  • dried basil
  1. Halve the leeks lengthwise, rinse clean, and slice into thin half-moons. Warm the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the leeks, stir, and cover. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. When the leeks have softened a little, add the tomatoes, cover, and cook for a few minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, halve and core the cauliflower. Slice each half crosswise into thick “steaks.” Place the cauliflower steaks on top of the vegetable mixture in the pan. Top with garlic and olives. Cover, turn the heat to medium-low, and steam undisturbed for several minutes. Add water if the mixture is dry. Cook until the cauliflower is soft.
  3. Season with lots of basil, drizzle with olive oil, and serve.

Tomatoey green bean, mushroom + quinoa stew (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

A farmer at my local farmers’ market still has green beans, hence this dish. If you have leftover rice, you can add it to the stew when the quinoa is done or serve the stew over the rice.

  • coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
  • mushrooms, halved
  • leek, white part only, halved, rinsed, and cut into half-moons
  • salt and black pepper
  • fresh or canned chopped tomatoes
  • quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • Romano beans, trimmed and sliced thinly, or green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • super-firm tofu, cubed (optional)
  • minced garlic or garlic powder
  • dried basil
  • turmeric
  1. Warm the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, undisturbed, until the mushrooms are sizzling and browned. Add the leek, sprinkle with salt, and cook until softened. Stir in the tomatoes, cover, and cook until the tomatoes are broken down and saucy.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small pan, toast the quinoa until golden. Add the quinoa, beans, and tofu to the tomato mixture, add water to just cover, and cook, covered, until the quinoa is tender and the beans are cooked the way you like.
  3. Stir in garlic, basil, and turmeric. Warm through, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.

Apple pancakes (gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, vegetarian)

These pancakes by the Sunday Brunch Chef are nice for a fall or winter weekend brunch, and any leftover cakes can be reheated for a weekday breakfast. Serve with eggs cooked to order, if you like, and your favorite pancake toppings—unsweetened applesauce, jam sweetened with fruit juice, or hydrated raisins (put raisins in a heatproof bowl, hydrate with boiling water until soft, mash a bit, and pour liquid and all over the cakes).

  • 1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tart apple, cored and cut into very thin matchsticks
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (such as almond, coconut, or soy), plus more as needed
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil, vegetable oil, or melted butter, plus more for frying
  • 2 large eggs
  1. In a bowl, mix together the flour, almond meal, chia seeds, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the apple and lemon juice. Whisk in the vanilla, milk, oil, and eggs. Gradually whisk the flour mixture into the apple mixture, adding more milk as necessary to reach the consistency of pancake batter.
  3. Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet or on a griddle over medium heat. Pour on ¼ cup batter and cook until bubbles form. Flip pancake and cook until the underside is lightly browned. Transfer cooked pancake to a baking pan in a 175º oven or toaster oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve pancakes warm.

Red cabbage slaw with sweet peppers, pecans + lemon dressing (gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, vegan)

Inspired by a post from Green Kitchen Stories, my favorite food blog, this salad is light, tangy, and crunchy—perfect to accompany a winter soup or stew. It is also very flexible: You can substitute or add any nuts, seeds, or raw vegetables that you enjoy.

  • red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • red onion, thinly sliced
  • kohlrabi, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks (optional)
  • orange, yellow, or red sweet peppers, chopped
  • jalapeño chile, minced
  • pitted green olives
  • tangerine sections, halved or quartered
  • green onion, green part only, thinly sliced
  • toasted pecan pieces
  • lemon juice
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • chopped fresh parsley or cilantro leaves

In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, red onion, kohlrabi, sweet peppers, jalapeño, olives, tangerine, green onion, and pecans. Drizzle lemon juice and olive oil over the mixture and toss well. Season to taste with salt and pepper, sprinkle with fresh parsley, and serve.

Indian-spiced mixed legumes (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

An Indian market has an endless supply of legumes to try, and this dish is a great way to experiment. This particular combination has sweetness and chew from the chana dal (split baby chickpeas) and the split peas, while the lentils  thicken the mix. If you don’t have an Indian grocery nearby, use whatever canned or dried beans, split peas, and lentils you enjoy. Soaking the legumes shortens the cooking time, and curry powder is a good substitute for the list of spices. Serve as a side dish or over rice or pasta.

  • chana dal or whole moong dal
  • split peas
  • red lentils or lentils of choice
  • avocado oil, coconut oil, or extra-virgin olive oil
  • onion, chopped
  • leek, halved and sliced, or shallot, chopped
  • halved cherry tomatoes, chopped regular tomatoes, or canned tomatoes
  • kosher salt
  • garlic, sliced or chopped
  • fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • jalapeño chile, sliced
  • fennel seeds
  • curry powder
  • ground turmeric
  • ground coriander
  • ground cumin
  • chile powder
  • freshly ground pepper
  • fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped
  • Wash and drain the legumes. Put them in a large bowl, cover with hot water by several inches, let soak for an hour or two, rinse, and drain.
  • Warm the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and leek and cook until softened. Add the tomatoes, sprinkle with salt, and cook until the mixture becomes saucy.
  • Stir in the legumes and cook for a minute or two. Add enough water to cover by half an inch, cover, bring to a boil, and then simmer, stirring occasionally, until the legumes are almost soft. Add more water if the mixture becomes dry. Stir in the garlic, ginger, and jalapeño and cook for a minute or two. Add the spices and cook until the legumes are completely soft. Season to taste with salt and pepper, sprinkle with fresh herbs, and serve.

Green bean, mushroom + black rice casserole (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

This casserole becomes a vegetable shepherd’s pie when topped with cauliflower-potato mash, but it is good on its own served alongside toasted or warmed corn tortillas. If you have the time, soak the rice in hot water for an hour or two, drain, and rinse before adding.

  • coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, or other vegetable oil
  • mushrooms, sliced
  • onion, chopped
  • sweet pepper, chopped
  • jalapeño chile, sliced
  • kosher salt
  • Romano beans or fillet green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • black rice or rice of choice, soaked and rinsed
  • turmeric powder
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • cumin seeds
  • fennel seeds
  • smoked paprika
  • curry powder
  • chopped fresh tomatoes or a jar of marinara sauce
  • vegetable broth or water
  • chopped parsley, for garnish
  1. Warm the oil in an oven-safe pan with a lid or a dutch oven over medium heat.
  2. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring only occasionally, until browned. Stir in the onion and cook until softened. Add the sweet pepper and chile and a few pinches of salt, cover, and cook for a few minutes. Add the green beans, rice, and seasonings and stir so the mixture doesn’t stick to the pan.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Add the tomatoes to the mixture, stir, cover, and simmer until the tomatoes soften and give off their juices. Add broth to just cover the mixture, cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for a few minutes. Adjust the seasonings.
  4. Carefully transfer the covered hot pan to the oven and bake, checking after 15 minutes. Add more liquid if dry or uncover the pan to reduce the liquid. Continue cooking until the rice and vegetables are completely soft. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve warm sprinkled with parsley.

Open-face breakfast taco with roasted broccoli, fried egg, + pesto (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

The toasty flavor of the broccoli complements the richness of the egg and the herby flavors of the pesto. To make this dish dairy-free, buy or make pesto without Parmesan cheese or sub in olive tapenade.

  • broccoli crowns, cut into small florets
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • eggs
  • corn tortillas
  • homemade or store-bought pesto of choice or olive tapenade, at room temperature
  • hot pepper sauce (optional)
  1. Preheat the toaster oven or regular oven to 400ºF. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Toss the broccoli with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the prepared pan and spread into a single layer. Roast until browned on the edges and cooked through, checking every 5 minutes or so. Keep warm.
  3. Cook the eggs to order. Toast the tortillas.
  4. To serve, place a toasted corn tortilla on each plate, mound with broccoli, and top with an egg, a dollop of pesto, and a few drops of hot pepper sauce. ¡Olé!