Veggie-Based (& Sugar-Free!) Roasting Sauce

Finished dinner

I came up with this idea while out on a run in the days before I was hosting a small dinner party. I wanted to make chicken wings for us to nosh on while cocktailing, buuuuut I wanted to avoid any added sugar. And I didn’t want to merely turn to my usual sugar subs (maple syrup or honey), I wanted to really challenge myself to think it through… Is it possible to get a sticky, sweet, finger-lickin’ sauce without adding sugar? The answer is yes! I ended up using a combo of high-sugar veggies plus some dried fruit – most likely inspired by a big batch of mole I made a few weeks ago which uses raisins and dried chilis to get it’s distinctly sweet-spicy profile. The wings ended up so great (and we had so much fun) that I don’t even have any pics of from that night! So last night I used the leftover sauce to make mid-week roasted chicken legs into a real treat. This recipe makes 1.5-2 cups and should keep in the fridge for 3ish weeks.

Basting

Sugar-Free Roasting Sauce

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 Tablespoons grated ginger
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 4 dried apricots, sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon tamari
  • 1-2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 dried chili, I used Morita (you can sub a dried Chipotle, which would add even more smokiness). Toast the chili a cast iron pan for a minute or so, then remove seeds/stem & place in a bowl with a splash of water, cover & allow to steam.
  • 1-2 anchovies (can sub miso paste to make the sauce vegan)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • Sesame oil
  1. I used an InstantPot, but you can also do this first step on the stove top instead. Put the onion, garlic, ginger, chili, apricot, tamari, rice wine vinegar and 1 cup water in InstantPot and set to 3 minutes on high pressure. Use manual release.
  2. Transfer to high powered blender and add anchovies/miso paste, tomato paste and pulse until blended. Then while running on high, add sesame oil little by little (up to 3 Tablespoons). Thin with water, 1 teaspoon at a time. Taste and add salt, pepper, more acid as needed. I like everything tangy, so if there’s too much vinegar in this – feel free to add more water or another apricot to balance it out.

roasted legs

 

Any Orange Vegetable Soup

Orange Soup

Would ya look at this gorgeous soup?! It’s versatile, filling, nutrient-dense, freezes well and is orange AF. I call it any orange vegetable soup not because it has oranges in it (it does not), but because you can use any orange vegetable like carrots, sweet potatoes, squash or any combination of them. It comes together quickly on the stove top, but if you have an Instantpot you can make this soup in no time. I’ve posted a version of this soup before, but have since updated it and figured it was worth posting again. The update? A couple scoops of almond butter added while blending, which creates a satisfying creaminess that holds up well when paired with a hearty salad for a complete meal.

Soup and salad What’s also convenient about this soup is that it can be easily transformed into other meal elements.  Here it evolved into a sauce for grilled chicken after I re-blended it with olive oil, tahini and preserved lemon.

IMG_3644 And below you can see when I used this magic soup as a base for roasted salmon and asparagus. When I wear my traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) hat, I recommend this soup to people suffering from fatigue, muscle aches or sluggish digestion since the orangey-yellow color and sweet flavor correspond to The Spleen, which in TCM is the center of the body’s metabolism.  You can also up the garlic, onions and ginger and it’s wonderful at shaking that lingering head-cold out. It’s a great soup to keep on hand in the freezer for those times that you need a simple, nourishing meal. Orange you glad I told you about it?!

fish w/ sauce Orange Vegetable Soup

  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2-3 T fresh grated ginger root
  • 3-4 cups peeled and roughly chopped carrots, sweet potatoes or winter squash.
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • Olive oil or coconut oil
  • Salt and freshly cracked pepper
  • 2-3 heaping T almond butter
  1. Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium high heat. Add 1 T oil then the onion and garlic. Sauté until softened. 
  2. Add the orange vegetables, ginger, coconut milk, salt and pepper and add enough boiling water to cover.
  3. Turn the heat down to low, cover and simmer for 30(ish) minutes.
  4. When the vegetables are soft and cooked, puree the soup with the almond butter. Taste and season accordingly. Please take care when pureeing the hot soup!

Instantpot users: put all ingredients except the almond butter in the pot (you can omit the oil). Top with enough water to cover. Close and set to high pressure for 4 minutes, natural release (you can manual release after 5 or so minutes). Continue with step 4 above.

Offical #fromthepantryfebruary Kick-Off!

IMG_2211It’s only fitting that I made polenta for the first (actually second, we had oatmeal for breakfast) meal of the month. I wanted to jump right in and start to tackle the enormous amount of polenta staring me down from the pantry, so I made this completely non-authentic soft polenta in only 10 minutes, by just whisking polenta into plenty of salted, boiling water. I had some spicy tomato sauce leftover from last week, as well as a wee bit of sauteed garlicky kale from yesterday, so on top they went, for a quick, tasty lunch.

The 1.5 cups of polenta I used meant there was a lot of leftovers, so I put some in a pyrex to firm up. Hoping to cut it into squares and pan fry for dinner. Stay tuned for polentapalooza!

Reducing Kitchen Waste by Collecting Food Scraps

IMG_2084

10 months ago I bought a small countertop compost caddy and started collecting food scraps for compost. Over the past 10 months, I have learned two things:

  1. It really doesn’t smell! When I initially bought the compost bucket, I didn’t want to spring for one of the beautiful (and more expensive) stainless ones that I saw, especially since I didn’t know if collecting and storing rotting food scraps on my kitchen counter was going to be a habit I stuck to. Well, I did stick to it, probably in large part because it doesn’t smell.
  2. It’s pretty remarkable how much waste can be diverted from the regular trash – and therefore from landfills!

Since I live in an apartment without a yard or outdoor space, I bring my collected food scraps to the Forest Hills Greenmarket on Sundays. My compost bin is only 2.5 gallons, and since I have so many scraps, mid-week I often empty the bin into a paper bag which I freeze. When I go to the market to drop off on Sundays, I bring the frozen scraps (which also don’t smell!) and the fresh scraps from the countertop.

GrowNYC, who runs NYC’s Greenmarkets and their compost programs, has many online resources to help you in your composting adventures. If you live in NYC and you’re interested in starting to collect your kitchen scraps, please check here to find a drop-off location near you. Additionally, there are a few neighborhoods which are part of a municipal compost pilot program! Exciting! Hopefully the initiative will expand to more and more neighborhoods in the coming months and years.

IMG_2076

Here are some tips to get your started:

  • Set out a bowl when you’re cooking to collect your peels, odds/ends, and skins.
  • There’s definitely a learning curve with remembering not to throw some things into the garbage, but you’ll get the hang of it. You can compost most organic non-animal material, so leftover pasta or grain, stale bread, and egg shells (an exception to the non-animal product rule), tea bags, and last week’s cut flowers can all be composted.
  • I line my bin with this compostable liner, and I add some shredded newspaper or brown paper bag on the bottom which makes it easier to transfer when I’m ready to either freeze or bring to the market.

#fromthepantryfebruary: Beans and Nuts Inventory

BeansNuts-2I actually thought I would have a lot more beans and nuts than I do! This past CSA season I ordered a double batch of beans, but I’ve gone through almost all of them since  I “borrowed” a pressure cooker from a friend (borrowed is in quotes since it was months ago, and I have yet to give it back; she is so nice and says I can keep it as long as I’d like, but I really have to give it back). I used to be scared of pressure cookers, I had heard horror stories of exploding pots and dirty ceilings. Alas, this one is an electric counter-top version that plugs in and is virtually foolproof. It also eliminates the need for presoaking beans, which is really the best thing in the world. Dried beans can go from the bag/jar to the plate in 10-30 minutes! Here’s a closer look at what I’ll be cooking my way through come February.

BeansNuts-3

  • 1.5 cups raw pepitas, Trader Joe’s
  • 1 cup raw sliced almonds, TJs
  • 1.5 cups chia seeds, TJ
  • 1 lb organic green split peas, Purcell Mountail Farms
  • 1.5 cups garbanzo beans, Goya

BeansNuts-4

  • 3 cups organic green lentils, Fairway bulk
  • .5 lbs raw ground almonds, TJs
  • 1.5 lbs organic popping corn, TJs
  • 1 cup whole raw almonds, Walgreens (!!)
  • 2 cups organic black beans, Fairway bulk
  • .5 lbs red kidney beans, Goya

BeansNuts-5

  • 1 lb organic whole ground flaxseed meal, Bob’s Red Mill
  • 2 cups roasted unsalted sunflower seeds, TJs
  • 1.75 lbs roasted unsalted peanuts, TJs
  • Addendum: After I took these pictures, and as I was putting everything back, I found 1/2 lb of raw cashews from Fairway, oops.

IMG_1982

And although it wasn’t #fromthepantryfebruary yet, with this weekend’s historic snow storm, we sure cooked like it was! I made a big ole pot of [non-traditional] minestrone with the last pound of my Purcell Mountain garbanzo beans, plus a couple of straggling CSA veggies from the crisper (rutabaga, I’m looking at you), roasted CSA tomatoes from the freezer, and some cabbage, carrots and onion from Fairway. And what goes best with a hot bowl of soup on a cold winter day? Fresh bread! Matthew made two loaves this weekend: one 1/2 whole wheat boule (above) and one whole wheat sandwich loaf with cooked buckwheat, polenta, and rolled oats. Booyah! Getting through that million pounds of polenta one tablespoon at a time!