Balsamic-glazed roasted brussels sprouts with mushroom-thyme polenta (dairy-free, gluten-free, vegetarian)

Winter brussels sprouts are a treat because chilly weather brings out their sweetness, which is enhanced by the balsamic glaze. As a shortcut, this dish uses packaged cooked polenta that comes in a log, but you can make polenta from scratch instead.

Ingredients
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • red onion, half diced and half thinly sliced
  • mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • jalapeño chile, thinly sliced (optional)
  • olive tapenade or chopped olives
  • store-bought cooked polenta in a log, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • fresh brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • balsamic vinegar
  • fresh or dried thyme leaves
Method
  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the diced onion, mushrooms, and jalapeño and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly browned. Stir in a heaping tablespoonful of the tapenade, the polenta cubes, and enough water to almost cover. Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring often and mashing the polenta cubes against the side of the pan, until the polenta becomes a porridge.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Toss the sprouts and sliced onions with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast the brussels sprouts and sliced onions until browned in spots, about 20 minutes.
  3. In a small saucepan over low heat or in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave, warm the balsamic vinegar until it thickens slightly. Pour in the brussels sprouts and sliced onions, sprinkle with the thyme, and toss to coat.
  4. Scoop the polenta into bowls, top with the brussels sprout mixture, and serve.

Crispy baked brown-rice “meatballs” with chunky tomato sauce + fresh spinach (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

Flavored with Mediterranean herbs, these crunchy nuggets definitely satisfy. Feel free to sub seasonings from any world cuisine. To form the balls, you need to use short-grain rice because it turns sticky when cooked (leftover cooked short-grain rice works, too). You can broil the balls instead of baking them, but keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.

Ingredients
  • short-grain brown rice
  • homemade tomato sauce or store-bought
  • olive oil
  • dried rosemary
  • dried thyme
  • dried oregano
  • fennel seeds
  • dried sage
  • red pepper flakes or chile powder
  • smoked paprika
  • kosher salt
  • baby spinach leaves
Method
  1. Cook the rice in a rice cooker or on the stove top according to the package directions. Set aside until the rice is cool enough to handle.
  2. Meanwhile, make or warm the tomato sauce. Keep warm.
  3. Preheat the toaster oven or oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil and lightly oil.
  4. Place the cooked rice in a large bowl. Season with rosemary, thyme, oregano, fennel, sage, red pepper flakes, paprika, and salt and stir to combine.
  5. Using moist hands, roll a tablespoonful or so of the rice mixture into a ball and place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining rice mixture. Bake until the balls are crispy all over, checking and turning them every 10 minutes or so.
  6. To serve, place a handful of spinach leaves in the bottom of individual bowls and top with the warm tomato sauce and several rice balls.  Enjoy!

Tortilla pie with greens, homemade sauce + pepitas (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

Here’s a simple way to enjoy the taste of enchiladas while using any leftover cooked beans or cooked or raw vegetables hiding in your fridge (almost any bits work). If you have a round casserole dish about the size of the corn tortillas, the finished product resembles a deep-dish pie. For a milder allium flavor, use green onions or leeks, or sauté the onion and garlic before blending with the other sauce ingredients. To add a hot, smoky flavor, use chipotle chiles with or instead of the dried chiles. For crunch when serving, toast some additional tortillas and break into chips or serve with store-bought tortilla chips. Inspired by recipes from Decolonize Your Diet.

Ingredients
  • dried chiles, such as guajillo or ancho
  • onion, chopped
  • garlic, chopped
  • cilantro, chopped
  • tomatoes, fresh or canned, chopped
  • cauliflower florets, chopped
  • firm tofu, chopped
  • jalapeño chile, chopped
  • cooked beans (optional)
  • cumin powder
  • dried oregano
  • chopped pitted briny olives of choice (optional)
  • kosher salt
  • corn tortillas
  • greens (such as beet greens, chard, kale, or collards), stemmed and slivered
  • raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
Method
  1. Toast the chiles whole in a dry pan over medium heat for a minute or so. Transfer to a heatproof container and submerge in hot water until soft, about 10 minutes. Stem, seed, and coarsely tear them, then add to a food processor or blender, reserving the soaking liquid if needed to thin the sauce.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375º. Add the onion, garlic, cilantro, tomatoes, cauliflower, tofu, jalapeño, beans, cumin, oregano, and olives to the food processor. Whirl into a coarse sauce, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl and to add some chile soaking liquid if needed to thin the sauce. Season to taste with salt.
  3. In the bottom of a casserole dish, spread a generous layer of sauce, top with a layer of tortillas, then continue layering with greens, sauce, and tortillas to fill the dish, ending with a layer of tortillas. Cover, place on a baking sheet, and bake until the sauce is bubbling, about 50 minutes. Uncover, flip over the top layer of tortillas, sprinkle a solid layer of pepitas over the soft sides of the tortillas, and bake until the pepitas are toasted, watching carefully that they don’t burn. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.

Warm cauliflower salad with almonds, pepitas + mustard-mayo dressing (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

A quick, tasty vegetable side dish or snack. If you love cauliflower and haven’t tried Romanesco, a green heirloom cauliflower available at farmers’ markets and now at well-stocked grocers, you are in for a treat. Any prepared mustard (such as Dijon, yellow, hot and sweet, etc.) works with a dollop of mayonnaise to dress this warm salad.

Ingredients
  • cauliflower (Romanesco, yellow, purple, or white)
  • prepared mustard of choice
  • mayonnaise of choice
  • caraway seeds
  • ground turmeric
  • freshly ground pepper
  • slivered almonds
  • pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
Method
  1. Trim the cauliflower, separate into florets, and cut into bite-size pieces. Steam or microwave until soft. Transfer to a bowl.
  2. While still warm, toss the cauliflower with mustard and mayonnaise a tablespoon at a time until the cauliflower is dressed the way you like. Season with caraway seeds, turmeric, and pepper. Toss again, top with almonds and pepitas, and serve.

Chickpea salad with tofu, avocado, peppers, nuts, seeds + pesto (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

No cooking is required for this refreshing main-course salad.

Ingredients
  • cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained if canned
  • super-firm tofu or seasoned tofu, cut into cubes
  • mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • Asian, English, or Persian cucumber, unpeeled, halved lengthwise and thinly cut crosswise
  • red or yellow sweet pepper, chopped
  • jalapeño chile, thinly sliced
  • store-bought or homemade pesto of choice or mayonnaise of choice
  • toasted slivered almonds
  • raw or toasted pumpkin seeds
  • balsamic vinegar or vinegar of choice
  • avocado
  • rice cakes, preferably brown rice
Method
  1. In a large bowl, add the chickpeas, tofu, mushrooms, cucumber, sweet pepper, and jalapeñol. Add a tablespoonful of pesto and the nuts and seeds, season with vinegar and more pesto, and toss well.
  2. Cut the avocado into cubes and place on top of the salad. Break the rice cakes into tiny bits. Gently toss the salad until just combined and serve.

Olive, garlic + rosemary grits topped with greens in spicy tomato sauce (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

Here is a hearty, simple weekday meal, or turn it into a weekend brunch by topping with an egg or two. You can make the sauce a day ahead and cook the greens in the sauce just before serving. Any leftover tomatoey greens taste great over grains or pasta. Inspired by the grits at Kafe Leopold in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

Ingredients
  • One-Step Tomato Sauce
  • red pepper flakes
  • garlic cloves, minced, or granulated garlic
  • water and/or unsweetened milk of choice (such as coconut, soy, almond, or rice milk)
  • white or yellow corn grits, such as Bob’s Red Mill brand, or coarse polenta
  • olive tapenade or pitted Kalamata olives or green olives, chopped
  • fresh rosemary leaves
  • fresh parsley, chopped
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • greens (kale, spinach, Swiss chard, or beet tops), stems discarded and leaves cut into ribbons
  • fresh basil, shredded
Method
  1. Make the tomato sauce. Stir in the red pepper flakes and half of the garlic, turn the heat to low, and keep warm, stirring occasionally.
  2. In a saucepan, bring water and/or milk (3 parts liquid to 1 part grits) to a simmer. Stir in the grits and bring back to a simmer. Stir in the olive tapenade, the rosemary, and the remaining garlic and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the grits are completely soft. Stir in half of the parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn the heat to low and keep warm, stirring occasionally.
  3. Raise the heat on the tomato sauce, add the greens, and cook to your preferred doneness. Stir in the basil and remaining parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. To serve, ladle the grits into individual bowls and top with the tomatoey greens.

Soft tacos filled with browned onions, peppers + mushrooms (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

Do you have leftover rice, grains, beans, or lentils in your fridge? These tacos are a perfect way to use them at any meal and are oh so good, even if a bit messy.

Ingredients
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • serrano chile or jalapeño chile, thinly sliced (optional)
  • onion, chopped
  • Padron, Guindilla, or green bell peppers, cut into small dice
  • mushrooms, chopped
  • cooked rice, grains, beans, or lentils or a mixture
  • fennel seeds
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • corn tortillas
  • avocado slices
  • store-bought or homemade salsa (optional)
  • hot-pepper sauce (optional)
Method
  1. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the serrano, if using, in one layer and cook, undisturbed, until sizzling. Stir in the onion, peppers, and mushrooms. Lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally to scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, until completely soft and browned in places. Stir in the cooked rice, grains,  beans, and/or lentils. Add the fennel seeds and cook until the mixture is heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. During the last few minutes of cooking, warm the tortillas in a toaster or toaster oven or wrap in a kitchen towel and microwave. Fill the warm tortillas with the vegetable mixture, top with avocado slices, salsa, and hot-pepper sauce, and enjoy.

Asian noodle salad entrée (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

A tasty main-course salad, this dish’s ingredients are very flexible. Feel free to add or replace with any other chopped raw vegetables that you have on hand—carrots, celery, radishes, daikon, jicama, snow peas or sugar snap peas—it just depends on how much energy you have to prep them. If you have the interest, consider adding chopped grilled vegetables, such as zucchini or roasted potatoes. Blanching the cabbage in boiling water and cooling it in ice water mellows the flavor a bit but retains the crunchiness.

Ingredients
  • small green cabbage, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • frozen shelled edamame
  • soba noodles or brown rice spaghetti
  • green onions, thinly sliced
  • Asian, Persian, or English cucumber, quartered and sliced
  • mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • fresh corn cut from the cob or rinsed canned corn kernels (optional)
  • sweet peppers, chopped
  • jalapeño chile, thinly sliced (optional)
  • rice vinegar or vinegar of choice
  • toasted sesame oil
  • Sriracha chili sauce
  • tamari or soy sauce
  • fresh cilantro, chopped
  • slivered toasted almonds
  • toasted sesame seeds
  • toasted sunflower seeds
  • chia seeds
  • super-firm tofu or seasoned tofu, cubed
  • medium-boiled egg per person, peeled (optional)
Method
  1. Have ready a bowl of ice water. Blanch the cabbage for 1 or 2 minutes in boiling water and immediately transfer to the ice water to stop the cooking. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cabbage to a large bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the edamame according to the package directions and chill more ice water. Drain the edamame, submerge in the ice water, drain again, and add to the bowl with the cabbage.
  3. Cook the noodles according to the package directions and chill more ice water. Drain the noodles, submerge in the ice water, drain again, and add to the bowl.
  4. Add the green onions, cucumbers, mushrooms, corn, sweet peppers, and jalapeño to the bowl.
  5. Prepare the dressing by drizzling the salad with a little vinegar, sesame oil, Sriracha, and tamari. Sprinkle with cilantro, almonds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and tofu.  Toss, taste, and adjust the seasonings.
  6. Serve in individual bowls with an egg and enjoy!

One-step tomato sauce (gluten-free, sugar-free, salt-free, vegetarian)

If you’ve never tasted homemade tomato sauce, you’re in for a treat. So easy, you’ll wonder why you haven’t made it before. Be sure to include cherry tomatoes, but be warned—their tomatoey intensity is addicting!

This sauce works over rice or vegetables, as an enchilada sauce, to enhance a soup, as a salad dressing base, or, obviously, with pasta.

Ingredients
  • olive oil
  • mixed shapes, sizes, and colors of fresh tomatoes, stems removed
  • kosher salt (optional)
Method

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add whole cherry tomatoes to the pan. Halve medium-sized tomatoes and coarsely chop large tomatoes and add to the pan. Cover and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally to break up the tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and season with a bit of salt, if desired. Lower the heat to low, partially cover the pan, and cook until the sauce thickens a bit (the sauce will thicken as it cools). Use right away or let cool, transfer to an airtight glass container, and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Tofu, cucumber + sweet pepper salad with pesto or hummus dressing (gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free vegetarian)

A juicy, crunchy, sweet, savory, and refreshing summer salad with a choice of two very simple dressings for an easy lunch. Accompany with rice cakes alongside, if you like.

Ingredients
  • super-firm tofu, such as Wildwood brand, cut into cubes
  • Asian, English, or Persian cucumber, unpeeled and cut into cubes
  • red or yellow sweet pepper, chopped
  • mayonnaise of choice
  • store-bought or homemade basil pesto or hummus
Method
  1. Mix together the tofu, cucumber, and sweet pepper in a bowl.
  2. Add a tablespoonful of mayonnaise and a tablespoonful of pesto or hummus on top of the salad. Toss until well combined and serve.