On my plate

My first plant-based autumn is going awesome as I turn to more hearty, comforting dishes for hibernation season.

The typical trial and error ensues.

-My big revelation in recent weeks is the Sunday dinner for one I put together a couple weekends ago, all from the Happy Herbivore Abroad cookbook (use the “look inside” feature at the link for some recipes). I made lentil loaf for the first time, as well as champ (basically an Irish take on mashed potatoes, with green onions) and a previous success, lemony kale. Though the kale only yielded two servings, the lentil loaf and champ provided repeat leftovers and I still have one serving of each left in my work fridge. Though I drizzled ketchup on the lentil loaf pictured, I poured barbecue sauce over the loaf and potatoes in subsequent helpings. Barbecue sauce is among my favorite condiments. I learned recently, however, that you gotta check the ingredients on barbecue sauce bottles because some contain non-vegan Worcestershire sauce. Luckily Trader Joe’s sauce is safe.

I want to experiment with lentil loaf flavors in the future. The recipe calls for onion, carrot and celery, but I might trade the carrot and celery for red bell pepper and spinach in the future or something of the sort.

-Fall means breaking out this mulled cider recipe. Bust it out at parties and friends will love you forever.

-I tried Fire and Earth Kitchen’s rainbow eggplant stacks a couple months ago because the picture looked pretty and you can get me to try anything with eggplant. It was all right, but the extreme earthiness of this dish needed some brightness, I think. And they didn’t make the best leftovers, which is important to me because I’m a single lady who likes to stretch meals for an extra day or two. I also need to learn how to become a food artist.

-Today. My first crack at cashew-based mac. Cashews are a super common base for plant-based mac and cheese because, when soaked and pureed, they lend the dish’s much-needed creamy quality.

I tried Isa’s roasted red pepper mac because, like with eggplant, I love everything containing red bell pepper, fresh or roasted.

Two things: When a recipe calls for onions, I tend to cut the quantity up to half because I have found in the past that following the recommended amount of onion (half of one large onion, one whole medium onion, etc.) just leads to too much onion for my palate, as much as I think onions are awesome. Maybe I just don’t know what “medium” or “large” mean? Are Walla Walla onions (my go-to onions) just bigger than normal onions? I don’t know. But this time I put in the full onion called for and it was too much. Wah.

Also, my boyfriend has no measuring spoons and I made this in his kitchen. I blame him for my putting too much fennel seed in this dish.

I could cut through the excess onioniness with some extra stone ground mustard and another pureed roasted red pepper for some zing and acid, but fennel — you can’t take that shit back.

I had fun making it, though, and will make it again with my lessons in mind. Watch Isa’s fun video, if nothing else.

With it, I made the easiest soup in the world, and that’s the Happy Herbivore’s black bean and salsa soup. Success. I added chili powder, cilantro and lime, as well, for some extra punch. (Everything Southeast Asian, Tex Mex and Mexican needs cilantro and lime in my book. Everything.) I was so excited to eat it, I forgot to top it with avocado and tortilla chips. But I can do that next time, because I have leftovers.

Because I’m pinching pennies for an apartment (read: kitchen), I see freezer burritos in my future. This time with rice.

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